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Full text of "Omni Magazine (August 1991)"



AUGUST 1991 




AUGUST 1991 






First Word 

By Father Andrew Greeley 

The press 

periodically trumpets the 

news of a decline 

or revival in American 

Sociologist and novelist 

Andrew Greeley 
contends that these shifts 

merely reflect 
the relative youth or matura- 
tion of the 
country's population. 



The Who's Who 

of contributing authors 



By Murray Cox 
Reason to believe: in spite 

of evil, in spite 
of death, belief in the vari- 
ous incarnations 
of God continues to thrive. 
What inspires 
people to keep the faith, 

and what happens 

when it no longer answers 

all (he questions? 


----- '■ : ' r i 

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• 1 \ 
1 ^ 



A , _ 


4— 4^**J3 

~\*- --{-'— 


Where do we fit in the cosmos? 
Can we comprehend universal mysteries? Or are there 

questions that can only be asked, never 
answered? This month's cover by Alec S. Hitchins sug- 
gests a perspective: humans transfixed 
by time, captured and captivated by a cosmic clock. 
This month we ask as well what science 
can know of the mind of God, the boundaries of reality. 
(Additional art and photo credits, page 91) 



By Curt Wohieber 


of trendy Southern California 

love imported 
water: Perrier, Evian, and 

■ the like. They 

may soon be deluged with 

a different 

variety — from Antarctic 



Political Science 

By Tom Dworetzky 

Getting the lead out: 

Dan Quayle's 

Council on Compeiitiveress 

kills a lead- 
recycling bill because the 

costs outweigh 

the benefits — saving lives 

and the environment. 



Pedaling into the future; a 

monkey who has 
a knife and knows how to 

use it; the benefits 
of blood-sucking leeches; 

MIT is a funny 
place — really; the plants 

they are a-changin'; 

radio astronomers request 

the sounds of 

silence; and more. 



The Mind of God 

By A.J. S. Rayl and 

K. I McKinney 

Science defines most 

aspects of modern 

life — why the earth doesn't 

float off into space, 
why the seasons change, 

how fax machines 
work. But science has al- 
ways been at a 
loss to prove the existence 
of God. As scientific 
improves, will God prove 
less elusive? 


Tech no- Wizards and 
Couch Potatoes 

By Kenneth R. Hey 


promises us a brave new 

world.. But 

many denizens of that 

world don't 

speak its language: They 

can't program 

computers or even a 

VCR. If 

knowledge is power, then 

illiteracy means oppression. 


Pictorial: Eackdraft 

By Beth Howard 

Casualties of war; Sunlight 

barely reaches 

the skies above Kuwait, 

thick with smoke 

from the relentlessly 

burning oil 

wells. How long will the 

darkness last? 




By Murray Cox 

The big picture: Author 

Morris Berman 

doesn't shy away from the 

major issues — truth, 
God, reality, knowledge. May- 
be he doesn't have 
the answers, but he has 
formed some dis- '■ 
turbing, fascinating theories. 


Fiction: Voices 

By Jack Dann 
The day the music died: 

Crocker says 

he talks to the dead and 

dares his doubtful 

friend Steve to accompany 

him to a funeral. 

There Steve finds magic 

and a balm 

for his hidden grief. 


Seen a UFO? Reach out 

and tell 

someone about It — 

for a price: 

if Henry VIM's wives had 

watched what 

he ate, they might have 

kept their 

heads; and more. 


Star Tech 

Techno-tools of tomorrow 


Computer Games 

By Jay Kee 

The best of both worlds: 


games allow contestants 

to interact with 

each other without leaving 

their homes. 

The computer becomes 

the conduit 
rather than the opponent, 



By Scot Morris 

Don't drink the drinks — 

at least not 

the entries in our mixed-up 

drinks contest. 


Last Word 

By D. Patrick Miller 

Mechanics — 

who needs them? You 

can fix your 

car with some deep 


and a little imagination. 


Great Wall of the Cosmos 

By Andrew Chaikin 
Six years ago, two respected astronomers discovered that 

nearby galaxies fell into a distinct pattern 
rather than being scattered randomly across space. The 

revelation of cosmic architecture could 
answer fundamental questions about the universe's origin. 



Americans hold fast to the Rock of Ages 

By Father Andrew Greeley 

Father Andrew 
Greeley is 
a professor of 
at the University 
of Arizona 
and a research 
at the National 
Research Cen- 
ter. His latest 
novel is An Oc- 

Everyone who reads the feature 
articles in the national press 
knows there is a decline in Amer- 
ican religion. Everyone knows 
that within this' "trend" there have 
been lesser trends: a "religious re- 
vival" in the Fifties, a religious de- 
cline in the Sixties and Seventies, 
and then another revival in the Rea- 
gan, conservative Eighties. 

When we consider the fluctu- 
ating age structure of the popu- 
lation and the changes in the Cath- 
olic Church, however, none of 
these much-heralded phenome- 
na ever occurred. American reli- 
gion hasn't changed much in the 
last 60 years and it's not likely to 
shift for the rest of this century. 

Religious attitudes are reflect- 
ed within a life cycle: Devotion be- 
gins to decline in a person's mid- 
dle teens, reaches bottom in his 
or her twenties, then begins to 
pick up again, and reaches a pla- 
teau when someone reaches his 
or her mid-forties. An analysis 
that Michael Hout, chairman of 
the sociology department at the 
University of California at 
Berkeley, and I have done dem- 
onstrates that the shape of this 
age curve has not varied in any 
age group for the last three dec- 
ades, except for a onetime de- 

cline among Catholics that oc- 
curred during the time of the 1968 
birth control encyclical. 

Evidence on the experiences 
of previous age groups, including 
those who matured during the Six- 
ties, strongly suggests that 
young people today will be as de- 
vout in their forties as their par- 
ents. And their parents were as 
"undevout" in their early- twenties 
as are the young today. Just as 
every young adult thinks he or she 
has discovered the pleasures of 
sex for the first time in history, so 
every twenty-year-old thinks he or 
she has for the first time discov- 
ered the pleasures associated 
with rejecting religion. The "re- 
ligious revival," about which I re- 
ceive a phone call at least once 
a month, is nothing more than the 
maturation (aging, if you will) of 
people from the late Sixties and 
early Seventies. 

Looking at the survey data for 
the last half century, more than 95 
out of every 100 people believe 
in God, three out of four are cer- 
tain about life after death, three 
out of four believe in the divinity 
of Jesus Christ, three out of five 
believe in hell, two out of five go 
to church once a week (three out 
of five of those are over forty), 
nine out of ten pray every week, 
one out of two prays every day, 
and one out of four prays more 
than once a day. 

It's true that church attendance 
declined in the late Sixties and ear- 
ly 'Seventies, but this phenome- 
non was limited to Catholics and 
was a result of a reaction to the 
controversy over the Catholic 
Church's rejection of birth control. 
In addition, the decline in church 
attendance correlates with politi- 
cal loyalty; there was only a 6 per- 
cent decline among those who 
strongly identified with a political 
party, and a 30 percent decline 
among independents, This de- 
cline ended in 1975, 

In the last three decades, be- 
lief in the literal interpretation of 
the Scripture declined among 
Catholics and then only among 
younger, especially college-edu- 
cated, Catholics. However, this 
change was consistent with Cath- 
olic teaching that not every word 
is literally inspired. 

"Mainstream" Protestant denom- 
inations (particularly the Method- 
ists) lost members, while Evangel- 
ical and Fundamentalist denomi- 
nations gained membership. 
This shift, however, did not involve 
a change in doctrinal attitudes 
among those joining a new reli- 
gious group. The evidence sug- 
gests that the denominations 
moved away from their members 
instead pf vice versa. 

Three decades ago, about a 
fifth of Americans believed in the 
literal inspiration of the Bible; 
they were born-again and tried to 
persuade others to "decide for Je- 
sus." That proportion of Ameri- 
cans has neither increased nor de- 
creased but has always been an 
important component of Ameri- 
can society. The first great awak- 
ening, like the born-again move- 
ment, occurred in 1744. In the 
1980's the national media redis- 
covered this religious sect and 
aligned these Americans with the 
Reagan era. 

All these developments are in- 
teresting and indeed important, 
but they do not imply any signifi- 
cant long-term decline — or long- 
term increase — in American reli- 
gious belief. 

If American religion hasn't 
changed, then why do so many 
journalists and academics, who 
have easy access to the data and 
ought to know better, think that it 
has? Perhaps the answer is that 
they themselves have for one rea- 
son or another drifted away from 
their religious origins and project 
their own experiences on the rest 
of us. DO 



Spurred by ageless riddles, our writers plumb 

infinite depths of space and mind 


During the great age of dis- 
covery in the fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries, 
cartographers revised and ex- 
panded Europeans' knowledge 
of the world with maps of the ex- 
plorers' findings. Modern mapmak- 
ing is now transcending the 
earth as it saiis into space. In 
"Great Wall of the Cosmos" 
(page 34), Andrew Chaikin exam- 
ines cosmologists' efforts to map 
the structures of the universe. An 
astronomy en- 

Clockwise from 

Andrew Chaikin, 
Emir's Garden 
Compound by 
Peter Menzei, 

A.J.S. Rayl, and 

Kenneth R. Hey. 

for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mas- 
sachusetts. A former assistant ed- 
itor at Sky and Telescope, Chaik- 
in has written for Air & Space 
Smithsonian and Life. His current 
project involves a five-year effort 
to compile the experiences of the 
Apollo lunar astronauts. 

Asking scientists about God 
encourages immediate reactions 
thai range from nervous- chuckles 
to heavy sighs. That, however, 
didn't daunt writer A.J.S. Rayl 
and Omni executive editor K. T. 
(Kevin) McKinney ("The Mind of 
God," page 42) in their effort to 
answer the question, Can sci- 
ence prove the existence of 
God? For a variety of reasons, not 
every scientist wanted to attempt 
an answer. One Nobel laureate, 
for example, seemed offended 
that the writers would even con- 
sider such an idea for a story and 
hung up on Rayl without further 
comment. "In the end, those scien- 
tists who did respond— and 
most did — offered an array of ide- 
as and opinions that at the very 
least serve to stimulate the gray 
matter," says Rayl, who is a fre- 
quent contributor to Omni. Coau- 
thor McKinney has also written for 
Newsweek and The Advocate. 
His book Everyday Geography 
(Byron Preiss/ Literary Guild) will 
be published in April 1992. 

In "Techno-Wizards and Couch 
Potatoes" (page 50), Kenneth R. 
Hey looks at the growing gap be- 
tween techno-iiterates and tech- 
no-illiterates. Hey is managing part- 
ner of Inferential Focus, a firm 
that provides corporations, gov- 
ernment agencies, and money 
managers with early insights into 
social, economic, and political 
shifts. He has written for American 
^graphics, The Journai of 
Popular Culture, and other 
academic jour- 
nals. And his 
film Southern 
Voices, Am- 


erican Dreams focuses on the 
popularity of Jimmy Carter, Burt 
Reynolds, Ted Turner, and others . 
in the Seventies. 

Contributing editor Tom Dworet- 
zky inaugurates Political Science 
(page 22), a column that probes 
the ways research findings be- 
come public policy, a process 
that Dworetzky says is "not too dif- 
ferent from filet mignon being 
turned into hot dogs." 

Omni senior editor Murray Cox 
(Forum, page 10) traveled to Se- 
attle to meet with social historian 
Morris Berman (Interview, page 
60). "Nice town, lots of hills," 
says Cox. "And mountains, real 
damn mountains with a full moon 
so close to Earth, I could stretch 
out my arm and touch it. It 
seemed the perfect place to pon- 
der Berman's lofty views and 
such questions as, Is there such 
a thing as a true ideology? and 
Is reality nothing more than a cul- 
tural artifact?" 

In Southern California, some res- 
idents anticipate the .arrival of ice- 
bergs. The idea of hauling the ice 
masses from Antarctica isn't as 
weird as it sounds, according to 
Curt Wohleber (Earth, page 18). 
"Anything seems possible in the 
parched Los Angeles area," 
says Wohleber. "One medium- 
size berg would produce six tril- 
lion ice cubes," he says, "enough 
to stretch to the sun and back— 
if you could do it before they be- 
gin melting." 

Jack Dann ("Voices," page 66) 
is the author or editor of more 
than 30 books, including the sci- 
ence-fiction novel The Man Who 
Melted (Bluejay Books, 1984). He 
is currently at work on The Path 
of Remembrance, a historical nov- 
el about Leonardo da Vinci. 

The work of photojournalist Pe- 
ter Menzei ("Backdraft," page 54) 
has appeared in National Geo- 
graphic. Geo. Smithsonian, and 
other publications. DO 



Ultimate questions are with us always 

By Murray Cox 


lies: Solving 
the enigmas of 
evil, death, 
and the mean- 
ing of strife. 

^^ ^^ y boss walked into my 
I I office recently and 
I %m I said, "I want you to 
write August's Forum on God and 
the future of God." God? I stut- 
tered, wondering if he'd lost his 
mind. Spiritus rector? Actually, I'd 
rather pass on that, I responded. 
"No," he said, "you've got it." 

In northern Nigeria, there is a 
proverb in the Hausa language — 
the language 1 spoke as a child — 
that would have stopped him in 
his tracks: "Mu bar kaza cikin 
gashinta. "Translation: "Let lis 
leave the chicken in its feathers." 
Meaning: "No way, man, step 
back, you messin' in stuff you 
shouldn't be messin' in," It is a po- 
lite but forceful "no." When ut- 
tered, it is rarely challenged. I 
didn't break into Hausa, or any 
English equivalent, however, be- 
cause I immediately felt an urge, 
an imposition, a dira necessitas 
that I couldn't comprehend — do 
it, do it, pluck this bird. 

First I collected some statis- 
tics that really surprised me: 
Nine in ten Americans say 
they have never doubted the 
existence of God, Eight in 
ten believe they will face 
judgment "on the last day." 
More than 90 percent of 
us claim we pray at least 
once a week. Since 
he Gulf War, 
we've returned 
en masse to wor- 
ship at our respec- 
tive altars. I'd 
say, based on 
the stats, God's 
future is secure 
and we are the 
ones who will 
ensure it. And 
I'd bet, as we 
approach the 
next millenni- 
um, we will see 
even more reli- 
gious fervor. 

I began to jot down ideas and 
questions: All religions presuppose 
the existence of God; beliefs pos- 
sess us — we don't possess 
them; Deus absconditus, das 
ganz andre (wholly other); 
God=love. Do I assume the exis- 
tence of a sensus divinitatis in ev- 
ery person? Ludwig Wittgenstein: 
"What did I know about God and 
the purpose of life? That some- 
thing about it is problematic, 
which we call its meaning." I 
looked through a syllabus from 
my days in seminary, glanced at 
a few manuscripts of sermons I'd 
preached, and finally read Carl 
Jung's Answer to Job. 

1 felt "old things" rise up, a 
loss, sadness, some confusion, a 
sense of reaching a boundary, an 
edge. I found questions left un- 
answered or answered in an 
easy, offhand manner, as if I'd 
transposed huge chunks of mean- 
ing from one side of the ledger to 
the other: The God of my fathers, 
the God of Abraham, Isaac, and 
Jacob, got transmuted into God 
as Self, symbol, archetype. But 
what did the symbol express for 
me? ! hit a wall, I "had" an arche- 
type with no center of meaning. 

Very early in the project, a 
wild horde — personifications of "is- 
sues" I'd noted on an old AT&T 
bill— moved into my small apart- 
ment. "We're three conundrums," 
they announced in unison, "Evil, 
Death, and Meaning, here and 
there, above and below, before 
artd after. Solve us, and we'll 
leave." What had I noted? God 
and the question of evil; God and 
the question of death; God and 
the question of meaning. A noisy, 
disrespectful lot, they pulled 
books off my shelves, hid my 
notes, and hacked their way into 
my computer, deleting and add- 
ing what they wanted. 

I needed a break. I attended 
a film festival held at the Angeli- 
ca Theater in lower Manhattan, 

put together by the Human 
Rights Watch, an organization 
that monitors human rights abus- 
es in more than 60 countries. I 
saw 18 films, documenting or dra- 
matically portraying "disappear- 
ances," torture, imprisonment, 
and exile. "It's cruelty for cruelty's 
sake," said a victim of Castro's bru- 
tality. A Guatemalan Indian 
cried, "Oh! my God, the blood on 
the walls of the jail." Ya, I 
thought. Oh! my God. 

I swam through one emotion af- 
ter another — rage, fear, revenge, 
sadness. And then, at the end of 
each day, as if I had walked 
through a crack in the wall of the 
dark theater, I entered a vast land- 
scape, a great expanse, and 
stood .on holy ground, the 
ground of incalculable human suf- 
fering and pain, and I bowed be- 
fore the human spirit, which en- 
dures and endures and endures 
for 10, 15, 27 years, say, at the 
Isle of Pines prison (torture cen- 
ter) in Cuba. How is it possible? 
I asked. And "Evil," who had fol- 
lowed me to the corner of Hous- 
ton and Mercer streets, averted 
his eyes — if only for a moment. 
In the darkness, I wrote the lyr- 
ics of a song: "Though we are 
beaten, we still sing; though we 
are beaten,' we still laugh; 
though we are killed..." 

So many disappearances. So 
many dead people. That week I 
pulled out an old journal: "Varana- 
si. Today, I stood on the banks of 
the Ganga. the sacred river we 
call the Ganges, and watched 
old Hindus sit at the river bank, 
awaiting death, listening to the 
sounds of the sitar, cymbals, and 
drums that floated out of the tem- 
ples that lined the shore. Water 
buffalo, submerged to their 
necks, looked satisfied, smug. 
Kids swam or splat buffalo shit on 
a wall to dry. A group of people 
gathered around a woman laid 




Shedding more light on energy issues, plus intriguing 

fermentation and glaring speculations 

Whose Mistake Is It, Anyway? 

U.S. Department of Energy secretary Ad- 
miral James Watkins [First Word, May 
1991] should read "Our Town" [Forum] 
in the same issue. If we all took Osage's 
approach to solve our energy problems, 
we would save enough money to visit 
some of Watkins's "frontier areas [that 
are] closed to developers" or one of the 
few remaining rivers that we have not 
yet sacrificed for its hydropower po- 
tential. Then we will be able to look 
back and discover that we didn't repeat 
our past mistakes but instead created 
a new, more efficient, and comfortable 
life-style using fewer natural resources 
and preserving more for future gen- 
erations of Americans. 

Edward A. Ellis, Jr. 
Portland, ME 

Nukes Now? No! 

Your excellent May 1991 issue oddly re- 
peats the damaging myth that atomic 
power could and should be a solution 
to global warming ["Alternative Sourc- 
es: A Status Report"]. A crash nuclear 
construction program would require 
large amounts of energy for uranium min- 
ing, plant construction, and fuel enrich- 
ment, which would result in a net in- 
crease in greenhouse gas emissions for 
at least the next two decades. Studies 
show that energy efficiency can do the 
same job at a fraction of the cost, with- 
in a few years, and without any of the 
ecological liabilities associated with 
nuclear power. 

To have any significant impact on 
greenhouse emissions, thousands of 
new nuclear plants would have to be 
built. This construction program would 
cost trillions of dollars. Furthermore, 
we'd be swimming in nuclear waste and 
living in fear of more nuclear accidents. 
Why substitute one environmental night- 
mare, global warming, with another, nu- 
clear power, when safe, clean, and 
cheap alternatives such as solar and 
wind now exist? 

Peter Grinspoon 

Nuclear campaigner 


Washington, DC 

Let the Sun Shine 

Utility-scale applications of photovolta- 
ics ["Alternative Sources: A Status Re- 
port," May 1991] may be a few years 
away, but 50,000 U.S. families already 
live in photovoltaic-powered homes. 
This does not include photovoltaic (PV) 
pumping systems. In 1981, when we 
started publishing a PV directory, 
there were about 20 suppliers. We now 
list 186 manufacturers of PV and relat- 
ed equipment, 562 American and Ca- 
nadian dealers, and 65 books, maga- 
zines, and newsletters. 

A. D. Paul Wilkins 

The PV Network News 

Santa Fe, NM 

Taken from a higher elevation, the ae- 
rial-photograph [page 50, May 1991] of 
our Carrizo Plain, California, PV power 
plant would have shown that we are dis- 
mantling it. Pacific Gas and Electric 
pays us only three cents per kilowatt- 
hour for the plant's electricity, while cus- 
tomers at remote sites bid a far higher 
price. The many off-grid photovoltaic- 
powered homes in the U.S. are taking 
PV power away from the utilities. 

Steve Baer 

Board chairman 

Carrizo Solar Corporation 

Albuquerque, NM 

Spotty Speculation 

In "Space Flu" [Antimatter, May 1991], 
astrophysicist Andrea Dupree debunks 
Fred Hoyle's idea of the relationship of 
sunspots and the flu virus. But Dupree 
has a pretty narrow-minded view for a 
scientist, What does she consider seri- 
ous science? Speculation ultimately led 
to numerous discoveries. 

Mimi Poulignot 
Freeman, MO 

This Mail for Meat 

Terry Bisson's "They're Made Out of 
Meat" [April 1991] prompted self-chas- 
tising. Similar intrigues were fermenting 
in my hypothalamus. Bisson coupled syn- 
tax with the perfect ending. I loved it. 
Jack Abbott 
Bradley, CA DO 



Could Antarctica's ice end California's drought? 

By Curt Wohleber 

Terry Spragg is no strang- 
er to innovation. He was 
the first to plaster adver- 
tisements on shopping carts — in 
Seattle in the early Sixties. But his 
latest project breaks new 
ground, or rather, ice, on a truly 
epic scale. Spragg plans to 
solve Southern California's fresh 
water shortage by towing in ice- 
bergs from the Antarctic. 

The area uses 3.5 billion gal- 
lons of water each day, and Los 
Angeles' Metropolitan Water Dis- 
trict (MWD) estimates that the de- 
mand will outstrip supply by the 

Bringing these 


icebergs to 


California may 


put the freeze 

on the 

region's water 

Though fresh water is scarce, 
fault lines and antinuclear environ- 
mentalists are plentiful. 

Spragg believes his alternative 
solution is obvious. Three quar- 
ters of the world's fresh water ex- 
ists in the form of ice, and 90 per- 
cent of the ice is in Antarctica. 
Some estimates put the conti- 
nent's potential annual iceberg 
yield at more than 300 trillion gal- 
lons of water. "Icebergs are 
more environmentally benign and 
can more easily obtain public sup- 
port than the other options," 
) says. 

year later. By this time, the berg 
would have melted to approximate- 
ly half its original size. This 
would still leave roughly 300 bil- 
lion gallons of fresh water. 

Later still, in the early Seven- 
ties, Rand Corporation physicists 
John Hult and N. C. Ostrander pre- 
pared a detailed study for the Na- 
tional Science Foundation titled 
"Antarctic Icebergs as a Global 
Fresh Water Resource." Satellites 
would identify icebergs for harvest- 
ing, according to the Rand re- 
port. Enormous nuclear-powered 
convoys would tow the bergs. 

Iceberg towing, however, has 
a Jules Verne quality that makes 
people skeptical. The scholarly 
lampoon The Journal of Irrepro- 
ducible Results roundly parodied 
the physicists' concept, and in 
the end, the Rand report gar- 
nered little support. "It kind of 
fell into a hole and died," says 
John Farquhar, a former Rand em- 
ployee. Still, one man took it seri- 
ously — Rand employee David 
Ronfeldt, who told his friend Ter- 

end of the decade. The MWD is 

currently negotiating with other wa- 
ter companies for surplus water 
and has implemented rigorous 
conservation measures to reduce 
demand in the short term. 

Over the long haul, however, 
the MWD is considering the con- 
struction of new desalination 
plants, possibly even nuclear pow- 
ered, which would, allow the city 
to tap the abundant — and conve- 
niently located — Pacific Ocean, 
But any kind of nuclear 
reactor in Southern California 
could prove problematic. 

The idea of shifting icebergs, 
of course, is not new. In the late 
Fifties Scripps Institution ocean- 
ographer John Isaacs said that it 
would be possible to harvest Ant- 
arctic icebergs and bring them to 
Los Angeles. In his plan three tug- 
boats would maneuver a ten-mile- 
long, half-mile-wide iceberg into 
the Humboldt Current, which 
runs along the western coast of 
South America. Near Ecuador the 
tugs would steer the berg into oth- 
er currents on a roundabout Pa- 
cific odyssey that would land the 
iceberg in Los Angeles about a 

Having worked on the iceberg 
project for 16 years, Spragg now 
plans a trial run. Just how 
Spragg plans to move the giant 
ice cube is shrouded in secrecy 
reminiscent of multibillion-dollar 
Pentagon projects. "It's a seaman- 
ship problem," says Spragg's 
colleague, Cliff Goudey, a naval 
architecture specialist. In order to 
moor an iceberg off Los Angeles, 
the two must consult with more 
than a dozen local, state, and fed- 
eral agencies. 

As for funding, Spragg even- 
tually hopes to get support from 
oil-rich, water-poor Saudi Arabia. 
But he also expects to net some 
$300 million from the pilot project 
by opening the iceberg as the 
world's only melting theme park. 
Better yet, revenue could come 
from a form of Spragg's earlier 
idea: iceberg billboards. DO 



Are federal cost cutters braking the rules? 

By Tom Dworetzky 


Our health and 

safety lie 

in the hands of 

Dan Quayle. 

mowadays your average 
government regulation 
is likely to have hard sci- 
ence at its core. Unfortunately, by 
the time said science has mutat- 
ed into public policy, it's usually 
been mixed with so much hope, 
fear, economics, political ideolo- 
gy, religion, and philosophy that 
you've got no more chance of sep- 
arating fact from spin than you 
would have breaking a sausage 
down into its original ingredients. 
This column focuses on sau- 
sages: policies ihat result from 
the meeting (or collision) of sci- 
entists, bureaucrats, and politi- 
cians (and anybody else who can 
get in on the fun). Consider what 
happened when the EPA tried cre- 
ating regulations mandating the 
recycling of lead-acid batteries— 
instead of allowing their inciner- 
ation in municipal combustors. 

Before the EPA— or any feder- 
al agency— can make a rule, the 
budgetmeisters at an Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) 
division known as the Office of In- 
formation and Regulatory Affairs 
(OIRA) must give it their okay. Set 
up originally to reduce govern- 
ment red tape, OIRA has evolved 
over the years into an executive 
branch Roach Motel of black 
hole dimensions: Regulations con- 
trary to administration policy 
check in, but they don't check 
out. The glue is known as cost- 
benefit analysis (basically, weigh- 
ing the costs of implementing a 
rule against the value of its ben- 
efits). The problem is that you can 
adjust the costs and the benefits 
to make any case you like. 

OIRA has done such a fine job 
of thwarting environmental laws 
that Congress has refused to ap- 
prove a new OIRA administrator 
for the last year or two. To over- 
come this, the administration has 
established the Council on Com- 
petitiveness that will oversee the 
overseers at OIRA. You don't 
need congressional approval for 
the head of the council. 

Now a lot of people say Dan 
Quayle is a joke, but not me. He's 
heading up the council, and 
that's no laughing matter. Includ- 
ing such luminaries as the Presi- 
dent's chief of staff, John 
Sununu, and OMB head Richard 
Darman, the council will surely be- 
come the vital crossroads where 
science meets politics head-on. 
In a' March 22 memorandum to 
the heads of all executive depart- 
ments and agencies, Quayle set 
the stage'for what is to come. The 
memo states that the council will 
review press releases, strategy 
statements, policy manuals, 
grant and loan procedures, agen- 
cy guidelines, and advance no- 
tices of proposed rule making. 
■ Quayle's memo suggests that the 
council expects cost-benefit an- 

alysis of documents including 
press releases. That's bound to 
create a paperwork logjam. 

Formed in July 1990, the coun- 
cil has made one significant de- 
cision: rejecting a proposed EPA 
regulation concerning municipal 
waste incinerators, saying that its 
costs weren't worth its benefits. 

What costs? What benefits? 
EPA scientists determined that 
lead-acid batteries are behind 60 
percent of the lead found in our 
country's" garbage. We know the 
devastating health effects of 
lead exposure — especially for chil- 
dren. The agency proposed a mu- 
nicipal incinerator regulation that 
would force the recycling of lead 
batteries. By cost-benefit calcu- 
lations, including various health 
costs and. damage to the ecosys- 
tem, the benefits of such a rule 
seemed well worth the cost of 
implementing it. 

But the council claimed the 
rule "did not meet the benefit/ 
cost requirements for regulatory 
policy," rejecting the recycling pro- 
posal without providing any anal- 
ysis to support its assertion. The 
EPA, whose job is protecting our 
environment, did as told. 

Is the cost of reducing cancer 
deaths from lead, particularly 
among children, too expensive 
for the council? Isn't it ironic that 
just a couple months ago the 
vice presidential residence had 
its water tested for a variety of tox- 
ic substances, including lead? 
Seems the doctors wanted to see 
if some environmental hazard 
had anything to' do with the 
Graves' disease afflicting the Pres- 
ident and First Lady, and Millie's 
lupus. They'd all spent eight 
years living there. 

Oscar Wilde once said that a 
cynic knows the price of every- 
thing, the value of nothing. May- 
be Vice President Quayle will 
think about that the next time he 
uses his residential tap. DO 



Wheels are churning, millions are cruising — on pedal power. Also, leeches 

on the comeback trail, and galaxies lost in static 

There I was, stuck half- 
way up a hill somewhere 
in Switzerland. I was test- 


thand— the 

proposition that the bicy- 
cle is the vehicle of the fu- 
ture. The people at the 
WorldWatch Institute in 
Washington, DC, had sug- 
gested that intriguing 
idea to me. "The bicycle 
is the vehicle for a small 
planet," said the insti- 
tute's Marcia Lowe. She 
enumerated the horrific 
consequences a country 
suffers as a result of its de- 
pendence on the car: 
road accidents, air pollu- 
tion, urban congestion, 
crippling oil dependency — the automobile's toll is a terrible 
one, and it gets higher every year. 

But If the bicycle is the vehicle of the future, am I ready 
for the future? I asked myself as I gaspingly inched my way 
up the steep Swiss incline. Grimly grinding out a few pitiful 
revolutions of the pedals, I said — to myself (my mouth was 
too parched to speak) — Perhaps the bicycle has a place in 
the future, but I do not. 

It was only day two of Travent International's (Water.bury 
Center, Vermont) "bicycling vacation" tour, We were wheel- 
ing our way through the picture-book-beautiful countryside 
surrounding the eight Swiss lakes between Geneva and Lu- 
cerne. Travent was definitely the choice of those who 
would prefer a well-cushioned ride into the future, supply- 
ing us with tour guides and first-class hotels to ride home to 
at the end of each sweaty, pedal-pushing day. 

The group also provided plenty of friendly comrades-in- 
spokes ready to dispense bicycle propaganda at the drop 
of a handlebar. According to this bunch, the bicycle was 
more than a desperately needed alternative 'to automobile- 
centered transportation. It was also the. perfect vehicle — 
literally and figuratively — to steer us all into the new small- 
planet era of more harmonious and luminous human relations. 
Cyclists love to tell you that your chances of meeting and 
even knowing other people in a new place are increased dra- 
matically if you are on a bike. After a week of being over- 
whelmed by the Swiss people's enthusiasm for our little pa- 
rade of flag-festooned bicycles of many colors, it did seem 
as though once you climbed into the saddle, you instantly 

fell into a closer cadence 
with the rest of mankind. 
This may be because 
in many parts of the 
world the "future" has al- 
ready arrived. Shocking 
though it may be to the au- 
to-ensconced American, 
the world's 800 million bi- 
cycles outnumber cars 
by two to one— and 
each year bike produc- 
tion outpaces automobile 
manufacturing by three 
to one. Bicycles in Asia 
alone transport more peo- 
ple than do all of the 
world's autos. "One of the 
greatest ironies of the 
twentieth century," says 
Lowe, "is that vast amounts of such priceless things as 
land, petroleum, and clean air have been relinquished for mo- 
torization, and yet most people in the. world will never own 
an automobile." 

My first days on the bike had made if agonizingly clear 
that I wasn't really in great physical shape and that I lacked 
a certain, shall we say, feel for the machine. Yet, even at 
that low ebb, there were glorious compensations. After a 
long crawl up miles of sloping vineyards, for instance, there 
was the view from the summit: the blue and green of Lake 
Geneva, and just beyond it, Mont Blanc. "Easy to see how 
the Romantic poets went gaga over all this," one laconic bik- 
er remarked. And arriving at the top'meant miles of down- 
hill to come. The whizzhg. exhilarating decent — man can 
truly fly — marked my first taste of those "wild cycling sensa- 
tions" I had heard so much about. 

As the days rolled on, I increasingly savored the oppor- 
tunity cycling gave me for the slow discovery of a place and 
its people. By day five, I envisioned myself riding my little 
green Nishki oike in the Tour de France, just like Greg 
Lefvlond, or, at the least, like Pee-wee Herman. By the 
tour's end, I found I absolutely agreed with my whole mind — 
if not quite yet with my whole body — with the British cyclist 
and author James McGurn, who wrote; "The bicycle is the 
vehicle of a new mentality. It quietly challenges a system of 
values which condones dependency, wastage, inequality of 
mobility, and daily carnage. There is every reason why cy- 
cling should be helped to enjoy another Golden Age." 



Monkey see, monkey do: A chimp learned how to make and u. 
stone knife ai'e: watering r.umans demonstrate. 


Kanzi. a ten-year-old 
bonobo, sometimes called a 
pygmy chimpanzee, knows 
not only how to use a Stone 
Age knife but how to make 
one. Researchers taught 
Kanzi these skills as part of a 
study, conducted by Nicho- 
las Toth and Kathy Schick of 
the CRAFT Human Origins 
Research Center at Indiana 
University, to compare the 
use of Stone Age technology 
by chimpanzees and early 

26 OMNI 

hominids, among the first 
users of such tools. 

Within a day after being 
shown how to use a sharp 
stone flake to cut a cord . 
binding a box with a treat 
inside, Kanzi had the 
procedure down pat. Soon 
he chose the sharpest flake. 
Shown how to make a knife 
by pounding one stone 
against another, he began 
making his own. 

Psychologists Sue Savage- 
Rumbaugh, Duane Rum- 
baugh, and Rose Sevcik of 


the Georgia State Language 
Research Center, operated 
in cooperation with Yerkes 
Regional Center at Emory 
Uriversity, "nave been collab- 
orating with Toth and Schick 
since the chimpanzee study 
began in May 1990. 

Next, Kanzi has to retrieve 
a treat from within a drum by 
slitting a transparent drum- 
head. "He will find he has to 
make his tool bigger and 
better," Schick says. 

—Robert W. Tinsley 


The advent of modern 
medicine, based on science 
rather than superstition, 
eliminated leeches, used for 
hundreds of years to "cure" 
ailments ranging from head- 
aches to yellow fever, from 
the doctor's office. But the 
success of an anticlotting 
drug made from the 
creatures' saliva indicates 
that their banishment may 
have been premature. At 
least a dozen pharmaceuti- 
cal companies are racing to 
produce a genetically engi- 
neered form of the drug, 
known as hirudin. 

James Chesebro of the 
Mayo Clinic, in cooperation 
with Ciba Geigy, recently 
began using hirudin to 
prevent or repair arterial 
damage in pigs. The results 

lead him to believe that leech 
hirudin could be more 
effective than the current 
anticlotting drug, known as 
heparin, which fails about 15 
percent of the time. 

"It totally prevented throm- 
bus [blood clotting] in the 
arteries after injuries to the 
deeper layers," he says. "We 
had not seen anything 
that could totally inhibit 
the thrombus." 

Chesebro followed up his 
experiments with preliminary 
tests on humans to deter- 
mine dosage levels. He 
needs to conduct more 
animal studies, however, 
before he can treat heart 
attack patients with the new 
drug, he cautions. 

Hirudin, made from the 
saliva of European leeches, 
surpasses heparin in another 
important area: It doesn't 
provoke allergic reactions. 
Chesebro chalks this advan- 
tage up to evolution. 

"A leech has to stay on the 
animal for quite a while to 
acquire its blood," Chesebro 
says, "so if it caused an 
allergic reaction, the animal 
would probably swat it 
off." — Jim Hogshire 

"Science is nothing but 
developed perception, inte- 
grated intent, common 
sense rounded out and 
minutely articulated." 

— George Santayana 


While most peopfe 
probably prefer the edible 
insides of crabs and lobsters, 
scientists have recently 
found a variety of uses for the 
creatures' shells. AJapanese 
company already pro- 
duces a line of sportswear 
using a derivative of 
chitin extracted from crusta- 
cean shells, and making 
bandages from the sub- 
stance may be the next step. 
The second most common 
organic compound on Earth 
(behind cellulose), chitin 
gives shape and durability to 
crab and lobster shells 
as well as mushrooms. 
Researchers at the North 
Carolina State University 
College of Textiles and 
elsewhere have discovered 
ways to convert chitin, which 

can be difficult to handle in 
its raw form, into a more 
manageable substance 
called chitosan, 

Its abundance as well as 
its potential for forming 
very strong fibers make 
chitosan ideal for use in 
commercial products. It also 
stimulates wounds to heal 
and acts as a hemostatic, 
stopping capillary bleeding. 

Research on chitin has 
advanced more in the last 
ten years than at any time 
since the substance was first 
identified in 1811, says Sam 
Hudson, a researcher with 
North Carolina State's Fiber 
and Polymer Science Pro- 
gram, "the main problem 
has been in finding accept- 
able solvents to dissolve this 
material so it can be spun 
into fibers," he says. 

— Robert W, Tinsley 




"Humor at MIT is. no 
laughing matter," says Jay.- [ 
Keyser, associate provost 
of a university noted for its 
scholarly intensity. Last . 
year Keyser accepted the 
post of administrator 
of the school's humor trust 
fund — 'arguably the only 
such position in academe- 
while standing on his 
head. "I'll, never do that 
again," he says. "My neck 
hurt for weeks.". 

Alumnus Peter deFlorez, 
class of 1938, gave the 
half-million-dollar bequest 
to impress students with 
"the importance of humor in 
all aspects of life." As 
administrator, Keyser first 
brought 1979 graduate' 
Gary Isaacs, who chucked 
a Wall Street career 
to go to Ringling Brothers' 
C|own College, to speak 
to students. Keyser also 
hopes to persuade 'the' ■ 
artist Christo to wrap MIT: 


In the future, doctors will 
practice good bedside 
manners in an unusual way. 
A doctor and patient can 
now communicate from 
thousands of miles away with 
a two-way computer link 
thai transmits video images 
of both parties along with 
diagnostic images. 

At a recent trade show in 
Washington, DC, radiolo- 
gist James Lear, sitting in 
front of a Macintosh FX 
computer hooked to a video 

Be a clown at MIT. 

"If not'the entire campus, at 
least the nuclear reactor." 

■Lightening thing's 'up- at a 
serious place like MIT is a 
heavy burden, he adds, 
"Whenever anybody sees 
me in the hall, I have to tell 
them a joke. Even worse, 
folks fee! compelled totell 
me jokes, which are 
invariably terrible." People 
now laugh even when he. .. 
makes serious comments . '. 
at faculty meetings. 

Even people at other 
universities don't take' him 
seriously anymore: His 
academic correspondence ' 
has dropped off since the 
new appointment. "They 
don't think it's funny," he 
says.— Steve Nadis 

camera, began conferring 
with a patient under- 
going diagnostic tests back 
at his clinic in Denver. 
Moments later, the 3-D X-ray 
image of the patient 
appeared on Lear's comput- 
er. Lear and his patient 
reviewed the results together 
as if they actually were in the' 
same room. 

The technology, Lear 
predicts, "will also make it 
easier for radiologists to tap 
the expertise of their 
colleagues and other special- 
ists across the country." 

— Kathleen McAuliffe 


— — ■ . . ■:: ~ 


see what e-voiution has 

plants could evolve -hat 

wrought. The verdict: it's 

fast," McGraw says, if plants 

How do plants evolve 

been hard at work. 

are adapting to warmer 

■ over a few centuries? Plant 

McGraW's graduate stu- 

temperatures and higher 

.-. ecologist James McGraw 

dent Milan Vavrek found the 

levels of' carbon dioxide, he 

found out by comparinq 3 

older plant had 20 percent 

concludes, then the effects 

living specifrien from the 

fewer leaves than the 

of potential global ornate 

seventeenth century with its 

contemporary plant, but the 

change may nos be as 

■modern- descendant, 

leaves were 15 percent 

serious as rriany fear. 

■ ■■ Deep beneath the- Aias- 

longer.. Further, as McGraw 

While that's -good news for 

■ kan tundra, McGraw found 

raised the air temperature. 

plants, it's a Galcn-22 :-y 

■'■ .perfectly preserved seeds. 

the modern plant's growth 

McGraw. "Testing such 

fro:" Arctic oiams up I.e. 300 

increased while the older 

effects usinq o resent- Oav 

years old. Once thawed, the 

model, conceived dunna ;he 

.plants may be misleading, 

seeds sprouted, enabling 

Little Ice Age (1650-1750),. 

he says, "since future 

McGraw and his colleagues. 

failed to respond to the heat. 

plants may be ecologically 

a 300 

'Sar-o!a Arctk- plan!. 

at West Virginia University ro 

:' ' "We had no idea- perennial 

different,"— Peter-Tyson. . , . 


Although it might sound 
disastrous to some environ- 
mentalists, a group of 
scientists at a workshop at 
the Woods Hole Oceano- 
graphic Institute has recom- 
mended dumping some of 
our wastes in the deepest 
part of our oceans. 

The scientists proposed 
placing the wastes on the 
abyssal plains of the deep 
ocean, four to five kilometers 
below the surface. About a 
million tons of waste would 
be dumped each year for ten 
years. The scientists lean . 
toward using "relatively 
benign wastes" such as 
sewage sludge and the ash 
from garbage incinerators 
because of their consistent 
composition and fairly pre- 
dictable behavior. 

Through the use of 
navigational satellites and. 
precise echolocation, each 
load of waste would be 
placed at exactly the same 
spot on the ocean floor in an 
area of very low current 

28 OMNI 

velocities to prevent dis- 
persal. The abyssal depths 
"don't communicate rapidly 
with the surface by any 
means we know of," says 
Derek Spencer, a senior 
scientist at Woods Hole, It 
takes about a thousand 
years for substances there to 
reach the ocean's surface, 
he says, and "there are 
processes in the deep ocean 
water that remove reactive 
chemicals in tens to 
hundreds of years." By then, 
the waste would be similar to 
organic detritus. 

While Congress has 
banned ocean dumping 
beginning next year, 
Spencer and others feel that 
the privately funded experr 
iment holds enough promise 
to justify asking for special 
authorization to proceed. 

—Robert W. Tinsiey 

"Art is moral passion 
married to entertainment 
Moral passion without enter- 
tainment is propaganda, 
and entertainment without 
moral passion is television. " 
— Rita Mae Brown 



Under the deep omv sua might be she sa'csi place tc 
wastes that might otherwise go to landfills. 



With the proliferation of 
telecommunications satel- 
lites, ham radios, and other 
devices transmitting radio 
waves, the airwaves have 
become as jammed as an 
L.A. freeway at rush hour. All 
but forgotten in the cacopho- 
ny are radio astronomers 
straining to detect signals 
from faraway galaxies. But 
some relief is on the way. 
In January, A. Richard 
Thompson of the National 
Radio Astronomy Observato- 
ry in Charlottesville, Virginia, 
helped forge an understand- 
ing with Motorola to unclutter 
the airwaves. Motorola plans 
to launch a fleet of 77 
satellites to provide cellular 
phone service to remote 
areas. The satellites will 
operate in the frequency 
band astronomers use to 
study star-forming regions, 
but the company will shift to 
other frequencies when its 
30 OMNI 

satellites are near U.S. radio 

Thompson has also nego- 
tiated with the U.S. Customs 
Service, which uses biimps 
flying near the Mexican 
border to track down drug 
traffickers. Radar signals 
from the blimps could 
interfere with radio tele- 
scopes in Arizona and 
Texas. Customs officials 
have agreed to blank the 









balloons' radar systems 
when they are pointed at the 
telescopes, unless they're in 
hot pursuit of smugglers. 
Despite these two con- 
cessions, Thompson says, 
"competition for frequency 
bands is getting more 
intense all over the spectrum. 
Different parts of the 
spectrum tell us about 

different things in the 
cosmos. Some of those 
things will become increas- 
ingly difficult to study." 

Ultimately, researchers 
may have to resort to putting 
their radio antennas in 
remote areas. Thompson has 
the ideal spot in mind: the 
dark side of the moon. 

— Steve Nad is 


herbal preparation had . 


been completely cured' of- 

the disease. Meanwhile, 

Long before-thefirs.t. 

standard Western medicine 

anti-itching, medication hit 

suppressed the fungus 

drugstore shelves, the 

but didn't eradicate' it,. 

Mayan indians began - 

Berlin says. 

concocting herbal medi- 

Fiv§ other plants com- 

cines to treat conditions 

monly prescribed by 

including athlete's fodtand 

the Mayans for diarrhea 

diarrhea. Those ancient 

have killed bacteria 

remedies actually work, 

and viruses-in cell cultures, 

often better than modern 

Berlin adds. Lozoya 

medicines, according to a 

plans clinical (rials of the. . 

research team led by 

most promising ones. 

University of California 

The Mayans probably 

anthropologist Brent Berlin. 

learned about the- herbs' 

Although the Mayan 

curative powers through 

empire peaked long ago, 

centuries of trial and error, 

Mayan Indians still live 

Berlin speculates.. "This Is 

throughout southern Mexi- 

not foiklore," he says, "but 

co. Berlin, working with his 

a scientifically based sys- 

■wife, Elois Ann, and 

tem of knowledge." 

Mexican. physician Xavier 

—Billy Allstetter 

Lozoya, has cataloged 

1 ,5.00 different plants the 


Mayans continue to use 

■ -•■" ,..."'.'• f~ - 

for medicinal purposes, 

i| J, 

Lozoya.has begun clinically 

testing the plants most ■ 

widely recommended' for 


specific ailments. 

He ground up. one of 


them and mixed it with an 

Irlfe&uSlB HhIIhSw 

inert ointment to make-It \ 

SS-jJ^^^Hi *^^S 

resemble modern athlete's 

3jjn ^•S^br^Pi 

foot medicines. After four 

? ■■■ ,,,r i ■ - 

■.months of double-blind 


trials at a hospital in Mexico 

The Mayans; Nice.tempies and 

City, patients using the 

an athlete's- foot cure. 


h '*•" <%, 


When gooey tar balls 
wash up on formerly pristine 
beaches, most people as- 
sume they're the result of yet 
another leak from an oil 
tanker or offshore oil well. Oil 
companies tend to deny 
responsibility for the oily 
mess. Now they can prove 
their innocence by determin- 
ing the source of the suspect 
petroleum, which sometimes 
turns out to be the ocean 
floor, where crude oil seeps 
out when fault lines shift 
and rupture. 

Early in 1990 a BP 
America tanker, American 
Trader, spilled 400,000 
gallons of Alaskan crude off 
Huntington Beach, California. 
Thus BP received the blame 
for every tar ball that washed 
ashore on the West Coast. 
Using an esoteric technique 
known as isotope mass 
spectrometry, company geo- 
chemists established that 
many of the tar balls had 
come not from an Alaskan 
well but from a rift on the 
California ocean floor. 

The specific proportions of 
carbon jsotopes,. paraffin, 

32 OMNI 

sulfur, and other elements in 
oil vary, depending on the 
oil's origin. The differences 
show up in the ratio of carbon 
13 to carbon 12 in a tar ball 
that has been converted into 


What do pecan proces- 
sors do with the' 25 mil- 
lion pounds of nutshells left 
over each year? Until 
recently, nothing, but poly- 
mer chemists Ramaswamy 
G. Raj and B. V. Kokta, 
who work at the Center for 
Pulp' and Paper at the 
University of Quebec at 

its liquid state by adding 
some solvents. 

Richard J. Drozd, geo- 
science manager of BP's 
research center in Houston, 
says isotope mass spectrom- 
etry found "a very distinctive 
four parts per thousand" 
difference between the oil 
from the American Trader 
and the oil from the ocean 
bottom near Huntington 
Beach. The composition of 
many of the tar balls closely 
resembled that of the 
ocean-bottom oil, proving 
that some of them occurred 
naturally. Thus BP wasn't 
wholly to blame, 

The technique could be 
useful in assessing liability 
and financial responsibility in 

Three Rivers, have undoubt- 
edly changed all that. 

The scientists found that 
pecan shells ground into a 
flour can replace the 
unrecyclable filler substanc- 
es, such as talc, and glass 
fibers, used to strengthen 
plastic. Moreover, the fi- 
brous structure, of pecan 
shells actually binds more 
effectively with polymers 
than other fillers do. "Pecan 




future oil spills, he says. 

— George Nobbe 

"Adam was the only man 
who, when he said a good 

thing, knew that nobody had 
said-it before him." 

— Mark Twain 

shells lend greater strength 
to plastic than most organic 
compounds," Raj says. 

In tests, they found that 
the shell flour increased 
by 34 percent the tensile 
strength of high-density 
polyethylene, used in every-. 
thing from milk containers to' 
irrigation pipes. By contrast, 
a calcium carbonate filler 
raised it only 16 percent. 

:.. —George Nobbe 

The momenl of discovery 
came nol at the eyepiece 
of a great telescope un- 
der a canopy of stars, but in a 
small office at the Harvard- 
Smithsonian Center for Astro- 
physics (CFA) in Cambridge, 
Massachusetts. There, late in 
the summer of 1985, Universi- 
ty of Paris graduate student 
Valerie de Lapparent was plot- 
ting a series of points on a 
chart; the points, collected 
with the help of a 60-inch tele- 
scope at Arizona's Mount 
Hopkins, represented the posi- 
tions of galaxies in space. An- 
alyzing the data was De Lap- 
parent's thesis project, and if 
plotting all those points by 
hand was a little tedious, it was 
the kind of work graduate stu- 
dents are expected to do. 

This time, the results were 
far from routine. As De Lappa- 
rent worked, she began to 

were clumps of galaxies con- 
nected by arcs of galaxies, curv- 
ing around huge empty places 
with no galaxies at all. At the 
center of the map there was a 
shape that looked like a stick 
man. Huchra's first thought 
was, What did I do wrong? 

It remained to show the map 
to astrophysicist Margaret Gel- 
ler, De Lapparent' s thesis advis- 
er and Huchra's partner in this 
latest survey of the galaxies. 
Geller took one look at the map 
and understood that something 
extraordinary had occurred, 
She didn't know what the 
strange patterns meant, but 
she never doubted they were 
real. After decades of uncertain- 
ty, the structure of the nearby 
universe was at last revealed— 
and it was beyond imagining. 
The galaxies were arranged in 
amazingly thin, Well-defined 
surfaces, wrapped around 





sense something amiss, The gal- 
axies weren't scattered random- 
ly, as she had expected: In- 
stead, they made strange, dis- 
tinct patterns on the page. 

Unable to interpret what she 
saw, she went to CFA astrono- 
mer John Huchra, who had 
been charting galaxies since 
the mid-Seventies and had 
helped collect most of the 
1,065 data points on De Lap- 
parent's map. A short, stocky 
man who often talks with an iron- 
ic smirk in his voice, Huchra is 
one of the world's most skilled 
telescopic observers, a master 
of the glass-and-metal giants 
and electronic black boxes 
that probe the universe. He 
was not having a good day. 
When she set the map down 
on his desk, he blanched. 

The pattern on De Lappa- 
rent's map was like nothing 
, Huchra had ever seen. There 

enormous, bubblelike voids 
measuring up to 200 million 
light-years across, Later stud- 
ies revealed one sheet of gal- 
axies spanning more than half 
a billion light-years, making it 
the largest known structure in 
the universe. Astronomers chris- 
tened it the Great Wall. 

The findings raised ques- 
tions of cosmic importance: 
How did these structures 
form? What could they tell us 
about the origin of the uni- 
verse? Might the vast, mysteri- 
ous spaces between the struc- 
tures contain the stuff theorists 
call "dark matter," as yet unde- 
tected by scientists? In short, 
the bizarre bubbles and arcs re- 
vealed in De Lapparent's office 
represented perhaps the most 
profound cosmic unveiling 
since Edwin Hubble discov- 
ered galaxies beyond the Milky 
Way s : x decades before. 



























It was Hubble, the aloof, pipe- 
smoking master of the 100- 
inch telescope at Mount Wilson 
Observatory in California, who 
proved in 1923 that the so- 
called spiral nebulae were ac- 
tually galaxies. Six years later 
he made an even more aston- 
ishing discovery: The galaxies 
appeared to be rushing away 
from us at fantastic speeds, as 
if fleeing a cataclysm of un- 
fathomable proportions. Hub- 
ble's observation was the first evi- 
dence that the universe was 
expanding in the wake of the 
fiery explosion that formed it — 
■the Big Bang. 

Based on his own limited ■ 
vey of the heavens, Hubble be- 
lieved that the galaxies— or "is- 
land universes," as some astron- 
omers called them— were sprin- 
kled fairly randomly and uniform- 
ly through space. By the Thir- 
ties, however, astronomers had 
learned that this notion was not 
entirely true: In some places, 
the galaxies were gathered to- 
gether in clusters. Our own 
Milky Way galaxy, for instance, 
belongs to a collection dubbed 
the Local Group, which in- 
cludes the famous Andromeda 
spiral and a score of lesser gal- 
axies. In more remote realms, mil- 
lions of light-years from Earth, 
galaxies congregated by the 
thousands. In the Fifties one 
maverick astronomer proposed 
■that even the clusters were 

grouped in larger assemblages, 
or "superclusters," spanning mil- 
lions of light-years. 

But what about on the larg- 
est scales? Might the clusters 
and superclusters be arranged 
according to some grand cos- 
mic architecture? For most as- 
tronomers, Hubble's vision of a 
uniform universe still held 
sway. Even though clusters had 
been found, most scientists be- 
lieved the universe would still 
look smooth— provided you 
stood back far enough. 

Half a century after Hubble, 
that view endured among a new 
generation of astronomers. One 
was Princeton's James Peebles, 
who, in the early Seventies, was 
single-handedly transforming 
cosmology. Until then, most cos- 
mologists hadn't asked how 
galaxies might be arranged in 
space. To them, only two ques- 
tions were worth asking: How 
fast is the universe expanding? 
Will it expand forever? Those 
'■questions compelled Peebles, 
too, but he realized that astron- 
omers would never answer 
them if they ignored the struc- 
ture of the universe. 

Peebles compared the uni- 
verse to a boundless ocean. To 
an observer near the surface, 
swells and ripples— which Pee- 
bles compared to clusters and 
superclusters— were apparent, 
signaling the approach of turbu- 
lence or storms. But from afar, 

the waves were more or less 
regular; the ocean appeared 
smooth. "What fascinated me," 
Peebles now recalls, "was the 
thought that if we could under- 
stand the way that galaxies 
clumped, we might be able to 
understand how the universe 
came to be the way it is," 

To Peebles, the only way to 
divine the structure of the uni- 
verse was with statistics. What 
are the odds that one galaxy ex- 
ists near another? What are the 
odds that it will be a member of 
a cluster? Or a supercluster? 
The answers to such a cosmic 
census, Peebles believed, 
might help unravel a host of fun- 
damental questions, from the or- 
igin of the galaxies to the fate 
of the universe itself. Peebles 
longed to test his theories, but 
to analyze the way galaxies clus- 
ter, he would have to know 
their true positions in space. 

But simply charting the loca- 
tions of galaxies as seen in the 
sky would not suffice. Visual ob- 
servation, even with the help of 
science's most powerful tele- 
scopes, would yield a flattened 
and misleading two-dimension- 
al view. It would be like looking 
at the world with one eye 
closed: Foreground and back- 
ground galaxies would be sand- 
wiched on top of each other. 
The crucial third dimension — 
the galaxies' distance from 
Earth — would be missing. 

The cosmic yardstick by 
which scientists could measure 
the third dimension in space 
had been discovered by Hub- 
ble himself. This useful phenome- 
non, known as redshift, occurs 
because the universe is expand- 
ing. As a result, remote galax- 
ies continuously recede into the 
distance, fleeing farther and far- 
ther from the Milky Way with the 
motion of the expanding uni- 
verse. The light from these gal- 
axies thus appears to be 
stretched out — that is, longer in 
wavelength, or redder, than it oth- 
erwise would. Simply put, the far- 
ther a galaxy, the greater its red- 
shift. Up until recently, astrono- 
mers determined redshift by us- 
ing photographic film to capture 
a galaxy's spectrum. The astron- 
omers analyzed the spectrum 
and then, using a simple formu- 
la, determined the galaxy's dis- 
tance from Earth. 

But photographic films 
proved frustratingly inefficient 
for the task of soaking, up light 
from distant galaxies. Even 
with the largest telescopes it 
took hours to record the spec- 
trum of a single galaxy. In the 
early Seventies, however, astron- 
omers began replacing film 
with ultrasensitive electronic 
detectors that could register an 
individual photon — the smallest 
quantity of light — from a remote 
island universe. Using such a de- 
vice, astronomers could trim, a 

night's work at the telescope to 
a fraction of an hour, making an 
extensive redshift survey feasi- 
ble for the first time. 

That opportunity was seized 
by a bright young CFA astron- 
omer named Marc Davis, who 
began the first redshift survey in 
1978, After struggling to get 
funds for the project, Davis had 
to build an electronic detector 
himself, painstakingly copying 
the design from a colleague in 
California, For a year Davis wres- 
tled with the balky device, but 
finally he and his collaborators 
were ready. Their goal: to sur- 
vey as large a volume of space 
as possible, measuring the red- 
shifts of a staggering 2,400 gal- 
axies out to a distance of 300 
million light-years. Three years 
later the first CFA redshift sur- 
vey was complete. 

As Davis tells it, the project al- 
most cost him his job. "That was 
four years out of my life, to do 
that survey." he says. "I was an 
untenured professor and I ran in- 
to deep trouble, with the pos- 
sibility of being fired, because 
I wasn't publishing enough dur- 
ing the survey," 

But the effort had paid off; 
Davis now had more than 
enough statistics to start analyz- 
ing how galaxies clump. In ad- 
dition, the galaxies' positions 
could be plotted on a kind of 
crude map. When Davis did so, 
there were hints of cosmic archi- 



tecture: Clumps and filaments, 
separated by empty places, 
seemed to emerge. 

But Davis's map had relative- 
ly little impact on his colleagues, 
One reason; the sketchy nature 
of the picture, due to the wide- 
ly scattered data points. "I re- 
member sitting with" Marc," Pee- 
bles says, "and Marc saying, 
'Look at this filament,' and my 
saying, 'Oh, give me a break.'" 

Even as the scientists debat- 
ed the reality of the structures 
on Davis's map, another redshift 
survey had turned up some- 
thing extraordinary entirely by ac- 
cident. CFA astronomer Robert 
Kirshner, then at the University 
of Michigan, and three col- 
laborators chose an apparently 
boring patch of sky in the con- 
stellation Bootes for their own 
redshift survey. Instead of a 
broad census, they chose to 
concentrate on several small re- 
gions, penetrating deep into 
space. Kirshner compares it to 
sticking knitting needles into a 
pumpkin to see where the 
seeds were. To their great sur- 
prise, the pumpkin was empty. 
They had discovered a vast re- 
gion nearly devoid of galaxies. 
Kirshner still remembers their 
disbelief. "We thought, 'This is 
too weird, A big hole in space. 
This can't be right.'" If the data 
proved correct, the void in 
Bootes was 217 million light- 
years deep, bigger than the en- 

tire volume covered by Davis's redshift 
survey. Kirshner's group was so stalled 
lhal they held off publishing the result 
for more than a year, until they had a 
chance to galher confirming evidence. 
When they did announce the discovery 
in 1981, the news drew headlines in 
The National Enquirer (DID A real-life 
along with strong doubts from some as- 
tronomers. They could accept the idea 
ot small voids, since those had been ore- 
dieted by computer simulations of gal- 
axy, formation. But no simulation had fore- 
cast the monster gulf in Bootes. 

One of the skeptics was Margaret Oell- 
er. A former student of Peebles, Geller 
had recently returned to the CFA from 
England, where she had developed an 
interest in the large-scale structure of 
the universe. From the time she had 
been a graduate student in the male- 
club atmosphere of Princeton, Geller 
had telt like something of an outsider 
in professional astronomy. Unlike Pee- 
bles, she did not believe in surveying 
galaxies for the sake of statistics alone. 
"I just thought it was sort of boring, if 
that's ail there was to it," Geller says. 

Geller was more interested in know- 
ing whether oddities like the Bootes 
void existed at all. After all, such struc- 
tures flew in the face of current theo- 

ries about how the universe formed. 

These theories derive, in part, from 
radio astronomers. Their. studies of the 
most distant and ancient realms of the 
universe show a featureless wash of ra- 
dio energy known as the microwave 
background. This uniform microwave 
background is thought to be the "echo" 
of the Big Bang. But if the Big Bang had 
given rise to such a homogeneous uni- 
verse — as reflected by the uniformity of 
the microwave background — how 
could one account for the enormous 
structures and holes? Geller was bet- 
ting that the Bootes void, for one, 
didn't exist at all, that it was merely an 
illusion due to the sparseness of the da- 
ta on Kirshner's map. 

To settle the question once and for 
all, Geller and CFA colleague John 
Huchra decided to conduct a redshift 
survey of their own. Theirs would be a 
truly herculean task, for they planned 
to survey 15,000 galaxies in the north- 
ern sky, extending 650 million light- 
years from Earth. As for the hands-on 
work, that fell to Huchra, who began the 
extensive task at the 60-inch telescope 
on Mount Hopkins in 1985. In his heart 
Huchra is not a theorist, and he did not 
share Seller's desire to pin down the 
large-scale structure question. "I 
didn't particularly care," he says. Being 

undistracted by the whims of theory, 
Huchra says, is part of his edge. 

Tapping that technical edge again 
and again. Huchra spent dozens of 
nights searching ou; h s -emote targets, 
each one millions of times too faint to 
be seen with the naked eye. For efficien- 
cy's sake, Huchra sweo" his te'escooo 
across one pie-shaped wedge of 
space at a time, hopping from one gal- 
axy to the next. By slicing up the cos- 
mos in this manner, he and Geller 
would be able to detect interesting fea- 
tures before the survey was complete. 

Graduate student Val6rie de Lappa- 
rentput in her share of nights at the 60- 
inch telescope as well, and by June the 
first slice, containing 1,057 galaxies, 
was complete. But Geller- and Huchra 
did not hurry to analyze their data, most- 
ly because they doubted they would 
find anything significant. Not until the 
end of the summer did they give the 
work to De Lapparent. 

Geller still recalls the moment she 
first saw De Lapparent's map. "Valerie 
showed it to me, and I recognized that 
there was something there." That eve- 
rung Geller took the map home with her, 
and, she says, "I understood what it 
had to mean," The map revealed what 
almost no one had expected— that the 
galaxies were arranged in thin sheets, 
wrapped around enormous voids. 
some of which were as big as the one 
in Bootes. To Geller, the partem resem- 
bled soap bubbles in a kitchen sink, or 
perhaps a sponge. Although the exact 
nature of the structure would require de- 
railed analyses. Gollor iurr.ee from skco- 
tic to believer overnight. 

Later on, so did Peebles. "I remem- 
ber looking at that map for the first 
time and saying, 'My God, there it is.' 
What was before always on the hairy 
edge of beliovabii ty became manifest." 
This time, it was no illusion. 

Each slice that Geller and Huchra 
added to the survey revealed new de- 
tails, new surprises, ki 1988 the team 
discovered a vast sheet containing thou- 
sands of galaxies and measuring 
more than a half-billion light-years 
across. Christened the Great Wall by as- 
tronomers, it is the largest known struc- 
ture in the universe. What's more, be- 
cause the Great Wall stretches to the 
limits of Geller and Huchra's map, its 
very existence suggests bigger struc- 
tures still. If you think it's mind-boggling, 
you're not alone. "Hundreds of millions 
or billions of light-years doesn't mean 
anything to me, either," admits Geller. 
"All I know is, that's real big." 

But what does this strange cosmic ar- 
chitecture imply? Confronted with a spon- 
gy universe, some astronomers have 
suggested that the voids aren'l empty 






at all but are insieaci : ;ilec with a mys- 
terious, invisible substance called 
cold dark matter, which had already 
been proposed as a kind of gravitation- 
al "glue" to hold galaxies and clusters 
of galaxies together. In fact, some the- 
orists say that cold dark matler may ac- 
count for more than 90 percent of the 
substance ot the universe. If so, the gal- 
axies are the merest flotsam and jetsam 
on the waves of the cosmic ocean. 
There's- just one catch: Cold dark mat- 
ter has yet lo be discovered. 

Another idea centers on the explo- 
sions that may have accompanied gal- 
axy formation. Shock waves from 
these explosions would have plowed in- 
to the surrounding gas and dust, com- 
pressing (hem into enormous bubble- 
shaped shells that would, in turn, give 
birth to more galaxies. In this way, the 
galaxies would come to be distributed 
on Ihe surfaces of huge bubbles. 

Princeton's Jeremiah Ostriker, who 
originated the shock-wave idea, now 
says the theory would barely account 
for bubbles the size of the ones in Bel- 
ief and Huchra's survey. And i! future 
surveys show that even bigger voids 
are common, he says, astronomers will 
have to look for new theories to explain 
them. In fact, Ostriker says, the whole 

40 OMNI 

subject is up tor oraos. There is no mod- 
el now that can account for large- 
scale structure. Period." 

Geller concurs. "My view." she 
says, "fs that there is somelhing miss- 
ing in terms of what we understand," 
Even Peebles — who still believes that if 
you stand back far enough, the uni- 
verse will turn out to be smooth- 
agrees. "Clearly," Peebles says, "I 
have something to learn." 

Meanwhile, Geller and Huchra's por- 
trait of the nearby universe grows 
each year. Today, with 1 2,000 galaxies 
charted, their survey is a few years 
Irom completion, but another, more ex- 
tensive one is already in the works. 
"We're only at the beginning in this," Gel- 
ler says. "I like to say that the fraction 
of the universe we've mapped is like the 
fraction of the earth that's covered by 
Rhode Island." 

Like a sixteenth-century mapmaker 
charting the New World, Geller is only 
too aware of the unanswered questions: 
What kind of structures are these? Are 
they typical? How big are they? How 
did they form? What do they tell us 
about the origin of the universe? To 
that end, astronomers have embarked 
on an age- of cosmic mapping. Other 
surveys have already begun to chart gal- 

axies in the southern sky and have 
turned up a similar frothy architecture. 
In the future, astronomers aim to coi 
plete the mapping of the nearby ui 
verse and then begin probing more dis- 
tant realms in hopes of learning whal 
structures may have existed closer to 
the time the universe formed. 

One of the most ambitious surveys is 
planned by a consortium from Prince- 
ton, Chicago's Institute for Advanced 
Studies, and Fermilab. Using a special- 
ly built 100-inch telescope and a new 
kind of spectrograph that can snare hun- 
dreds of reoshills at a time, they hope 
to survey up to an astounding 5.000 gal- 
axies a night and a million galaxies by 
the turn of the century. 

Even then, Geller cautions, don't ex- 
pect the big questions to be answered 
right away. "Understanding comes a lot 
more slowly than discovery." 

Answers may come slowly, but they 
will come. Having charted our own tiny 
planet and some of the other worlds 
that populate our little corner of the uni- 
verse, we are at last reaching out fo fill 
in the big picture, to transform the cos- 
mos into terra cognita. And though the 
work is painstaking and long, the results 
will be as wondrous and 
the starry sky. DO 



out on a funeral pyre, dressed in a yel- 
low saree, with an array of flowers scat- 
tered over her. They cast the flowers up- 
on the water, anointed her with oil. Af- 
ter cupping water from the river and 
pouring it into her mouth, they set the 
pyre on fire. I heard the sizzle of burn- 
ing flesh; a stench filled my nostrils. Flee- 
ing the scene, I rented a boat, went out 
on the river, and dove into the water. 
'If you die in Varanasi,' the boatman 
. said, 'you go to our heaven. It costs 
seventy rupees.' I tried to conjure up my 
own end, I couldn't. It's how the body 
shrivels up that amazes me," I wrote. 
"I want to die in Varanasi." Today, as 
I write, "Death" looks over my monitor, 
grins, and asks, "And then what?" 

By now, you know, I'm in over my 
head. Am I the only one? Ask people 
to peel the layers off the word God, and 
I'm not sure you'd find many who agree 
on the who and the what: kindly pro- 
tector, grandfatherlike, loving, and com- 
passionate; feared, vengeful judge; 
shamanism, trance states, deep ecol- 
ogy; Allah, Buddha, Christ. I say "God," 
and siories from the Old Testament pop 

up — wanderings, exile, lamentations, an 
ark, a rainbow, and promised rest. 
These are deeply ingrained images 
that continue to resonate with emotion, 
though the original meaning has lost its 
powerful hold, 

Wittgenstein wrote, "Doubting and 
nondoubting behavior. There is a first 
only if there is a second." I doubt, but 
I didn't always doubt. The son of de- 
vout missionaries who spent 45 years 
in Africa, I was well versed in nondoubt- 
ing behavior, I knew God, and my "know- 
ing" was not just a passive acceptance 
of a dogma or creed. God provided a 
framework out of which I made sense 
of my life, a safety net to catch me if I 
lost my balance. 

One day I fell and the net didn't 
hold me. What happens when a person 
loses a belief, something that's just as 
integral to his identity as is the power- 
ful and formative reflection of Ihe mir- 
ror image? For starters, a free-fall, and 
a bunch of dark, anxious days. One 
thing for certain: The person is hound- 
ed by ihe idea of meaning; it's always 
there, gnawing, underfoot, like a hun- 
gry dog wanting to be fed. 

When I took on this assignment, 
■"Meaning" hollered to his buddies for 
reinforcement, assuming with only a 

"pair of threes," he'd trump me, He did, 
Lousy hand, I guess. Evil, death, and 
meaning, our Latin church fathers 
would have said, complex oppositori- 
um. For better or for worse, I can't talk 
about God without facing the gang of 
three. That may not be your lot or the 
way you'd pluck this bird. Probably isn't, 
Perhaps I should have heeded the prov- 
erb and left the thing in its feathers. 

"Evil" may avert his eyes once in 
a while, but "Death" wears a terrible 
grin. And "Meaning" reads what I've 
written and laughs. In response, I 
point to a plate that sits on the kitchen 
cabinet. In the center, a young 
peasant bends toward the ground, 
with two swords in one hand. Printed 
above him: je suis las de les porter. 
1797. "I lay down my arms." That's as 
far as I can go now with God, much 
less the future of God. Like Job, I say, 
"I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke 
once, but I have no answer — twice, but 
I will say no more" (Job 40:4-5). WfSQSn- 
stein; "There are, indeed, things that 
cannot be put into words. They make 
themselves manifest. They are whal is 
mystical. We don't get to the bottom of 
things but reach a point where we can 
go no further, where we cannot ask fur- 
ther questions." DO 


Can science reach beyond physical reality 
and prove that a divine! being or force oversees the universe? 


in John Updike's novel Roger's Version, a computer hacker claims 
thai scientific calculations will soon prove the existence of God. Scientists in the rcai 

world are (ess confident. Even as : the idea of God gains newfound 
respectability in some scientific circles, many scientists argue that finding God re- 
mains outside the realm of science. A few, however, believe that 


science can produce quantifiable, scien- 
tific evidence ot God. And one bold 
physicist asserts he has already laid the 
theoretical groundwork. 

While science and religion both 
seek ultimate truth, they conduct the 
search through means that seem to op- 
pose each other. Theologians rely on 
divine revelations — or intuitive discover- 
ies. If no One can disprove the insights 
and answers to religious questions, 
then they must be true. But divine rev- 
elations, in and of themselves, do not 
prove the existence of God, which is not 
a point of contention in religious circles. 

Scientists require proof, physical ev- 
idence that supports a belief. An exper- 
iment, performed anytime, anywhere, 
should produce the same results. 
Despite the demand for evidence, how- 
ever, science involves its own faith, or 
assumptions, which scientists justify by 
saying thai they must start somewhere. 
If the rate of reaction in stellar fusion, 
for example, were just a tiny bit differ- 
ent, then carbon would be extremely 
rare. Most scientists agree that compli- 
cated molecules require carbon, and 
without carbon, they believe, life as we 
know it — and as we don't know it- 
could not exist in the universe, "This 
seems to make the universe fine-tuned 
to our existence," says astrophysicist 

Thomas McDonough, now a Caltech lec- 
turer in engineering. "Some scientists 
would say this is a signpost that God 
does exist," 

Signposts do not constitute proof, 
andmost scientists stop short of claim- 
ing that any scientific principle or dis- 
covery proves the existence of God. 
Lack of evidence doesn't mean God 
does not exist, and scientists, of 
course, will never be able to disprove 
the existence of God. "Science can nev- 
er prove a negative," says Johns 
Hopkins University neurophysiologist Ver- 
non Mountcastle. "No scientist who's ev- 
er thought about the question would pre- 
sume to say, 'I can prove that God 
does not exist.' It would be extremely 
arrogant of any scientist to say that sci- 
ence is a tool for discovering God." 

Many scientists both agree and dis- 
agree with Mountcastle. "I can say 
there is no God, and in fact, there are 
visible, nonphys.ical pink elephants 
[hat constantly urinate on us." says neu- 
roscientisl Michael Persinger at Lau- 
rentian University in Ontario. "You may 
not like it or believe it. But if I ask you 
to prove to me that they are not there, 
you can't." 

But as Tulane University mathemati- 
cal physicist Frank Tipler puts it, "Sci- 
ence concerns itself with the totality of 

existence. If science cant reach God, 
then God doesn't exist." 

In the absence of physical evidence, 
belief in the existence of God must 
rest upon faith. Regardless of their own 
personal ideas about God, however, sci- 
entists—believers, atheists, and agnos- 
tics alike — commonly use God as a met- 
aphor in their research, "We often try 
to understand how we would build the 
universe if we were God," McDonough 
says. "Physicists, for example, would ap- 
proach the idea by creating basic 
laws and observing what happens 
when they let those laws operate. Look- 
ing at the fundamental equation 
E=mc s , we ask, 'Why would ener- 
gy and mass be related in this s::ange 
way? Why would God make the speed 
of light constant everywhere in the uni- 
verse?' Even those scientists who do 
not believe in God find it useful to think 
that way, which is not very different 
from the way a theologian thinks." 

A proposal for an actual research 
project to seek God, scientists agree, 
would receive, little encouragement. 
"You just don't get funding to go out 
and find God," says Stanford Universi- 
ty psychologist Stephen LaBerge. 
"Even if you did, you'd have to first de- 
fine what you mean by God." And ev- 
ery major religion views God in a differ- 
ent way, creating what often seems to 
be "many Gods, rather than one. In West- 
ern societies, 'moreover, God also 
means something different to each indi- 
vidual believer, who often perceives 
this personal God in some kind of phys- 
ical form, rather than something that tran- 
scends physical reality. 

Scientists seeking God as a unifying 
force in the universe would likewise de- 
sign their research projects according 
to their own metaphor for God. They gen- 
erally shy away from any pubfc slaie- 
ment regarding their own beliefs abou.1 
God because most people would as- 
sume they are talking about a physical 
being resembling the white-haired old 
man Michelangelo depicted. 

According to Tipler, however, "Na- 
vill tell us what sort of definition we 
have to use" in determining a search 
God. "Matters of science are not 
open to opinion," he says. "In principle, 
:here could be a difference of opinion 
on water, but water is water and there 
is only one reality." 

The greatest obstacle to a search for 
God, in fact, is "putting the idea on the 
table and simply acknowledging that it 
is a legitimate topic for conversation," 
says physician Larry Dossey, former 
chief of staff at Medical City Dallas Hos- 
pital and author of Recovering the 
Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Search 
(Bantam, 1 989) and Meaning and Med- 

icine (Bantam, Fall 1991). Before any- 
one can Initiate a God search, scien- 
tists need to be receptive to the idea 
and be willing to accept whatever evi- 
dence is collected. "It's not scientific her- 
esy or blasphemy to settle on indirect 
evidence. No one has ever held a 
quark in his hands. The same reason- 
ing can be applied to God. But if we 
start out saying we have no God me- 
ter, whatever evidence we get will be 
indirect and we'll be in a better posi- 
tion to handle whatever phenomenon 
we observe." 

Neuroscientist Karl Pribram at Virgin- 
ia's Radford University argues that not 
entering the subject of God into a seri- 
ous scientific debate is more involved. 
"As you grow older, there are two 
ways of doing science. One way is to 
go back to the questions that got you 
involved in science in the first place, 
which requires you to deal with the ques- 
tion of God. The other way is to learn 
more and more about less and less, 
which means you become an expert in 
a particular area and, at that point, you 
don't want to be bothered and, in fact, 
probably think it's pretty stupid to pon- 
der questions about God." 

Discussions about God enter the ar- 
ea of metaphysics — what lies beyond 
the physical world but underpins or guar- 

antees the physical world order. 
"While we.assume there is a design be- 
hind the physical reality, science can' 
really tell us anything about the design 
er, the nature of God, or God's relation- 
ship with human beings," says Paul Da- 
vies, professoi of mathematics and phys- 
ics at Australia's University of Adelaide 
and author of God and'the New Phys- 
ics (Simon & Schuster). "The physical 
universe reflects the rational nature of 
the creator, and scientists uncover the 
rational structure, which some say is see- 
ing the mind of God." 

Yet scientists exploring the mind of 
God are indirectly, if perhaps uncon- 
sciously, seeking the body that incor- 
porates that mind. Any physicist, for ex- 
ample, interested in ultimate questions 
is on a search for God or conclusive 
physical proof that God does not exist. 
And any search for God requires the sci- 
entific personality. 

"The type of person who becomes a 
scientist is inherently a doubting Thom- 
as," McDonough says. "If you can tol- 
erate doubt and uncertainty or can 
turn to your religious faith, you become 
a politician, or a priest or rabbi, or al- 
most anything else. If you always want 
answers supported by hard proof, you 
become a sceniisL. essentially question- 
ing authority and never completely trust- 


ing another scientist," 

It's difficult to study the birth of the 
universe and not ponder questions of 
intent. Even in Western science, which 
logically reduces everything to basic ele- 
ments, many scientists' thoughts inevi- 
tably turn to the existence of a supreme 
universal being. "I'm surprised by how 
many of my colleagues are, in fact, re- 
lig oi,s and hold very conventional reli- 
gious beliefs," Davies says. "In some 
cases, their scientific work bolsters 
their conventional religious positions. 
The majority, however, probably stand 
in awe of nature and aren't sure wheth- 
er its subtlety and ingenuity rcla:e to a 
personal God or simply an underlying 
order. Yet even they feel the world is 
more than a random accident. There 
has to be more to it than just fact." 

Western scientists' materialism, the 
view that everything is composed ex- 
clusively of physical qualities in space 
and time, clearly complicates any sci- 
enlilic search lor si non physical God ex- 
isting beyond space and time. Untilthe 
seventeenth cc-mury Western scien- 
tists, like everyone else, accepted the 
existence of God as a fact. Then Rene 
Descartes, Sir Isaac Newton, and oth- 
ers seeking mat he-ma:- ca and scientif- 
ic truths began ■jn-aveling the mechan- 
ics of gravity and other laws of nature. 
In the process, they explained many of 
the things that had been accepted as 
God's handiwork. 

But they steered clear of God and 
the soul. "And that has a lot to do with 
Descartes and the deal he made with 
the Catholic Church," says neurochern- 
ist Candace Pert, research director at 
Integra, in Bethesda, Maryland. "In ex- 
change for permission to dissect human 
bodies, Descartes agreed to stay away 
from the study of the soul and the 
mind, which was the Church's turf, Ev- 
er since, scientists have considered 
soul a four-letter word, something 
that's not st.udiable." 

Scientists may have consciously 
tried to drop the subject of God from 
their inquiries, but even Newton 
thought in tens of God causing the plan- 
ets to move in the particular .way they 
do. "Seventeenth-century scientists 
didn't think of the laws of nature as mod- 
els in the human mind, but human dis- 
coveries of the lundamentai reality of na- 
ture," Davies says. "They believed God 
was a mathematician and that the laws 
of nature were eternal laws or ideas in 
the mind of God." 

The idea that the laws of nature-are 
eternal still gucles scientists, informing 
the belief that the laws of nature must 
govern all of nature. But if the laws of 
nature are eternal , where were they be- 
fore the creation of the universe? "Even 

in one's most optimistic; moments, ques- 
tions like that seem to be unanswera- 
ble and are clearly ouiside the realm of 
science," says MIT professor of phys- 
ics Alan Guth. "There are limitations on 
what kinds of questions you can scien- 
tifically approach. Asking ihe purpose 
of the universe is an unscientific ques- 
tion. There might be an answer, but it 
won't be a scientific one." 

Most scientists and theologians 
share the same dilemma when address- 
ing the ultimate origin of everything. "If 
you argue that God created the Big 
Bang," McDonough says, "I'd respond, 
'What created God?' No matter what di- 
rection you follow, you come back to 
the giant cosmic question mark. You 
can't know what came before the be- 
ginning, before the Big Bang or before 
God. It's not clear that we will ever 
know the answer." 

Indeed, attempting to scientifically an- 
swer such questions would expose the 
metaphysical foundation of science, 
according to British oiclogist Rupert Shel- 
drake, author of The Rebirth of Nature; 
The Greening of Science and God (Ban- 
tam). "Those who think about the ori- 
gins of the laws of nature must con- 
clude that the laws governing the crys- 
tallization of salt and the migration of 
swallows exist outside space and time 
and were therefore in place at the time 
of Ihe Big Bang. But there's no way to 
test that assumption. It's an act of 
faith,, a relic of the theological legacy 
on which science is founded. There's 
a lot of theological assumptions in hard- 
nosed orthodox science." 

Sheldrake hypothesizes that the 
laws of nature, in fact, are not fixed but 
evolve along with nature. The regulari- 
ties found in nature are more like an ac- 
cumulation of habits. "That requires a 
different understanding of cosmic evo- 
lution, the development of nature, and 
the role of God," Sheldrake says. "A dif- 
ferent kind of God, a mechanistic God 
or an engineering God with a mathemat- 
ical imagination." 

And a different kind of science, one 
thai openly incorporates the physical 
and the metaphysical. "Scientists can 
only study what they have the tools to 
study," Pert says. "If the hypothesis 
that God is a spiritual energy is true — 
and it is my personal belief that it is — 
then, yes, it is theoretically possible to 
use the scientific method to prove the 
existence of God. But we will have to 
first understand this other realm of spir- 
itual energy, which science hasn't yet 
addressed, although it appears that we 
are definitely heading in thai direction." 

Integrating spiritual energy and phys- 
ical reality, however, "would be a ca- 
tastrophe that would .destroy the body 

48 OMNI 

of science, the structure of cause and 
effect," says physicist Robert Jastrow, 
Dartmouth College professor of earth sci- 
ences and author of God and the As- 
tronomers (Norton, 1978). "'Science has 
a useful set of insights and they depend 
on the rigorous adherence to fact and 
inlerential reasoning. It has a certain 
power. It also has a certain narrowness 
because it cannot illuminate the larger 
questions of beginning, end, and pur- 
pose. If you try to break the structure 
of cause and effect, then you have noth- 
ing: not good philosophy, not good 
metaphysics, not good science." 

It clearly won't be easy to unify (he 
way scientists think and. conduct their 
endeavors in the search for God, "To 
apprehend a nonphysical God exisling 
outside space and time, you have to ex- 
pand, not reduce, everything to its ba- 
sic elements," Dossey says. "Efforts to 
understand the concept of God have ig- 

6The search 
for God will herald the dawn 
of the twenty- 
first century, and physical 
evidence will 
alter our view of God, but we 
must redefine 
God in terms of physics,^ 

nored what we know about the nonlo- 
cal nature of the mind [flowing through- 
out the body in a neiwork of informa- 
tion molecules], !f you're nonlocal, 
you're omnipresent and infinite in 
space and time. If you're infinite in 
space and time, then you're immortal 
and eternal. These are the same quali- 
ties that we have always ascribed to 
God. And the idea of nonlocality will pro- 
vide science with the proof of God's ex- 
istence." The initiation of an actual 
search for that proof, however, will her- 
ald the dawn of the twenty-first centu- 
ry, according to Tulane's Frank Tipler, 
whose Omega Point theory provides the 
basis for calculating the experiments. 
"Physical evidence could greatly alter 
our view of God, but we need to rede- 
fine God in terms of physics, which 
won't be easy," he says. 

Unlike Freeman Dyson's theory that 
life goes on forever in an open-ended 
universe, Tipler believes that eternal 
life can exist only within a closed uni- 
verse. And eternal life generates God, 
not the other way around. God evolves 

as the universe evolves. "If that's true, 
we will be able to determine how God 
then generates the universe," he says. 
"I must warn you that I'm pushing phys- 
ical laws far beyond where they've 
been tested. It's crazy, but maybe not 
crazy enough to be right." 

According to Tipler's Omega Point the- 
ory, the entire cosmos will eventual. y be 
united in the mathematical equivalent 
of the sum of all points in space and 
time. Essentially, at the end of history, 
billions of years from now. Tip- 
ler says, "life will evolve to its ultimate 
future— the Omega Point [God], the 
point of infinite knowledge [omni- 
science] and occupation and control of 
the universe [omnipresence. and omnip- 
otence]. Nothing more can happen. 

"It's a physical theory based on sci- 
entific materialism in physical cosmol- 
ogy and computer science, not on reli- 
gious revelations, but the implications 
increasingly lead back to the tradition- 
al image of God," he says. "Whenever 
you talk about eternal life and the evo- 
lution of the universe, it's impossible to 
avoid God. It's an automatic conse- 
quence, whether you do it my way or 
some other way." 

But Persinger, for one, doesn't be- 
lieve the answers lie in the cosmos, but 
in the human brain. "No matter how 
wide we assume the universe is, no mat- 
ter how old we presume it to be, every- 
thing is contingent on the experience 
of human beings," he says. Indeed, 
Persinger views God as a concept that 
resides in the brain, a product of evo- 
lution and brain function that reduces 
anxiety about death and self-dissolu- 
tion. "The whole issue of God's exist- 
ence can be evaluated effectively by us- 
ing neuroscience tools to study how the 
brain works and what its function pro- 
vokes or induces," he says. His argu- 
ment, however, begins with the prem- 
ise that God does not actually exist. 

Science and theology deal in com- 
plementary ways with the mysteries of 
the universe. As Einstein said, "Religion 
without science is blind. Science with- 
out religion is lame." And as we ap- 
proach the twenty-firsl century, scien- 
tists and theologians agree, we are en- 
tering new dimensions in our understand- 
ing of God. But science will not 
change the relationship between believ- 
ers and their God. "For believers," 
says Richard Mouw, professor of Chris- 
tian philosophy at Fuller Theological Sem- 
inary in Pasadena, "science will always 
be trying to unpack divine mysteries 
and filling in information that for us sim- 
ply confirms our belief that God has cre- 
ated a marvelously complex universe 
and, indeed, marvelously complex hu- 
man beings. "DO 



Tech no-outsiders are being denied the very 
things our society cherishes — equal voice, opportunity, and access 


Many Americans felt comfortable, even 
satisfied, with television images of co- 
alition forces using the latest techno- 
wizardry to send missiles to their pre- 
cise targets on the ground in Iraq and 
Kuwait. While many of the world's citi- 
zens marveled at the technology, how- 
ever, others worried about the extent of 
destruction and the way in which tech- 
nologically advanced countries have 
acquired the capability to destroy more 
traditional (i.e., less technologically ad- 
vanced) societies. Iraq's tenuous infra- 
structure collapsed under relentless co- 
alition bombing. Water, energy, trans- 
portation, and communications systems 
all fell victim to the 100,000-ptus sorties. 
In short, a nascent industrial society be- 
came a preindustrial society within 60 
days. Because of the chasm between 

the advanced and less advanced coun- 
tries, morally tinged words like should 
have become intermixed with technolog- 
ically confident words like can. 

The difference between can and 
should measures the distance between 
technology and ethics, between reality 
and ideality. The reality is that technol- 
ogy has created a huge gap Petween 
techno-literates and techno-illiterates, 
between those who can ride the tech- 
nological wave to financial rewards and 
those who must remain outside its di- 
rect influence. This reality flies in the 
face of society's ideal of equal voice, 
equal opportunity, equal influence, 
equal access. While the reality-ideality 
split has always existed, the advent of 
high-tech instrumentation has accelerat- 
ed the pace of dislocation. 

^Altered states: The invisible touch 

of digital technology has furnished publishers with the ultimate photo 

opportunity — to reinvent history^ 

Every eight years, modern technol- 
ogy doubles (he amount of information 
in print, and that doubling period is 
shrinking. So much information puts pres- 
sure on context and structure. Within so- 
ciety, education offers the context and 
structure. Writers like Robert B. Reich 
and Alvin and Heidi Toffler are of the 
opinion that those with the context, not 
the labor, will enjoy the benefits of to- 
morrow's wealth. But the future need 
not be consulted for that assessment; 
the disparity is already here, and the 
gap between tech no-literates and tech- 
no-ill iterates has grown expansive in the 
past ten years. 

A simple definition of literacy might 
call it the ability to code and decode 
information using a socially shared sym- 
bol system. If the English language is 
the shared symbol system, roughly 60 
million adult Americans are illiterate or 
semiliterate. Add the annual 20 percent 
high-school. dropout rate, which skyrock- 
ets to 50 percent in certain inner-city ar- 
eas, and it becomes clear that a bur- 
geoning portion of the U.S. population 
live as techno-outsiders. 

If mathematics is the shared symbol 

system, more Americans Oin :he outsid- 
ers. For example, in 1986 the Educa- 
tional Testing Service (ETS) surveyed 
50,000 students in grades three, sev- 
en, and eleven, It discovered that rough- 
ly half the seventeen-year-olds could 
not correctly answer multiple-choice 
questions involving percentages or 
square footage, even when listed an- 
swers allowed for huge errors. If the 
shared symbol system is computer lan- 
guage, virtually 90 percent of the pop- 
ulation crosses the line into illiteracy. 

"The gap between the people desir- 
ing technology," according to David Kel- 
ley, a Palo Alto, California, product de- 
signer, "and those who buy it just 


keeps getting biggoi and bigger." Com- 
\ puter users who are comfortable with 
\ Windows, Lotus 1-2-3, or some other 
:. scphislicatoc software are literate in 
I computer utilization, if not comput- 
L er programming language. Kelley 
i suggests that the gap between the 
[ user-literate group and the design- 
1 er group is expanding rapidly. 
However, the gap becomes a 
huge chasm when the measure 
is between those techno-insid- 
ers designing the technology and 
those who do not use it or do not 
" understand it at all. In some graduate 
schools, computer languages can sub- 
stitute for a foreign language in Ph.D. 
programs. For the great majority of Amer- 
icans, computers and related digital tech- 
nology are a foreign language;, they 
have no access to its meaning and 

Left: Author Kenneth R. Hey. 

they cannot participate in its culture. 

While this nagging democratic con- 
cern whirls around high-tech advanc- 
es, another problem involves the fact 
that the systems this educated elite con- 
trols are offering more opportunities for 
abuse and are themselves becoming 
less reliable. Digitization of information — 
the breakdown of all input into binary 
digital signals, and 1, and its recom- 
position at some other time from digital 
signals back to its original form- 
makes each electronic signal (i.e., 
each or 1) discrete and changeable 
without a trace. This has created a 
huge potential to accumulate, assess, 
and transmit data, but it has also creat- 
ed an equally huge potential for abuse. 

Some people, like computer "hack- 
ers," actually seek to undermine oper- 
ations. These new-era Billy the Kids cre- 
ate computer viruses— rogue comput- 
er instructions that undermine a pro- 
gram's objectives and can harm hard- 
ware. Viruses threaten the veracity of in- 
formation ranging from monthly bank 
statements to onboard radar and guid- 
ance systems. The recently "liberated" 
Bulgaria has become one of the lead- 
ing'exporters of computer viruses. Hack- 
ers in one Bulgarian organization 
"launch" one computer virus every sev- 
en minutes. Not only is the group pro- 
lific but it evidently has excellent quali- 
ty control. "Dark Avenger," one of the 
group's best-known viruses, has al- 
ready surfaced in the Soviet Union, 
Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, and 
the United States (in military systems). 

Peter Tippett, a computer virus con- 
sultant, reveals that in his own study of 
150 large U.S. companies, half admit- 
ted to having "caught" a virus and 26 
percent of them suffered infections be- 
tween January and March 1991. Tippett 
projects from these figures that by the 
end of 1991 , virtually all heavy comput- 
er users will have faced a virus of 
some kind or another. 

Viruses reproduce themselves and 
spread their infection to computers in 
contact with the original contaminated 
computer. Identifying this attribute as a 
potential strength, Western military an- 
alysts and freelance terrorists alike 
have initiated efforts to make rogue vi- 
ruses do electronically what grenades 
and bombs do physically. Military strat- 
egists, according to the German news- 
paper Sua'deuische Zsir./ng, based in 
Munich, are seeking ways to infect small- 
er systems like those aboard combat air- 


of the daily U.S. consump- 

_ _ burning 

peris say ihe rest of the 

50,000 tons of sulfur di- 


A man-made inferno blackens 
the future of the Mideast 

light, forcing drivers to fires are raising the car- W\ A g 1/ftH A T* 

s their headlights, bon dioxide pumped Kill K II nil hi 

How bad is it? Some 4 into the global atmos- Unvl\l/I VII I 

a 6 million barrels of oil phere by approximately 

ire going up in smoke 2 percent. Though these TEXT BY BETH HOWARD 



%• _« ~ I 


emissions will stop when 



guished, the globe-warm- 
ing gas will be with us for 
another 100 years. 

Experts, however, may 
have a more pressing 
concern: how the fires' 
■ fumes will alter the imme- 
diate weather forecast. 
They could disrupt South- 
east Asia's monsoon 
season, unleashing a 
drought affecting billions 
of people. Even if rains do 
come, they may be so lad- 
en with soot as to make 
the land barren. Others 
fear that the clouds, al- 
ready lowering ground 
temperatures by some 
15* to 30" F, could trigger 
a small-scale nuclear win- 
ter in the Middle East. 
Still other scientists treat 
such worst-case scenar- 
ios with skepticism. As 
reported in the May issue 
of Nature, researchers 
using satellite data pre- 
dicted that the smoke 
would not rise higher 
than 5.5 miles and would 
be quickly washed out of 
the air. At press time, 
U.S. agencies had ar- 
rived on the scene to sur- 
vey the damage and moni- 
tor levels of sulfur dioxide, 
hydrogen sulfide, and 
carbonyl sulfide in the 
plume. While scientists 
study and debate the ef- 
fect of the oil well fires, 
the Kuwaiti people strug- 
gle to carry on their lives 
under the pall of smoke. 
Although they have been 
liberated from occupying 
Iraqi troops, now they are 
under siege by an equal- 
ly menacing force. DO 









"The loss of self is the loss of God," 

says the author of The Heenchantment 

of the World, who searches for 

a new order of self/body in time and 

place — a new cosmology 


It's risky sometimes to gather your friends together and 
introduce them to each other. You never know, really, 
whether they'll like each other, take to each other, see 
what you see in them. I've met someone that I'd like you to 
get to know, a gentle-mannered man who says the craziest 
things, troublesome, delightful, even controversial. His 
name is Morris Berman. He loves big ideas; he also loves 
Fellini's Amarcord and swing dances at night. Morris 
hangs out and writes — fountain pen, yellow pad — at the 
Honey Bear Cafe, in Seattle, and along the way has collect- 
ed degrees in mathematics (Cornell) and the history of 
science (Johns Hopkins). After a number of teaching 
stints, he gave up the "tenure track" for a life as a 
"freelance" professor, writer, and lecturer. 
A number of years ago I stumbled across his book The 

Heenchantment of the World. It was a wonderful moment, 
but then he disappeared from print. Recently he's resurfaced 
with another book called Coming to Our Senses. The friend- 
ship was immediately rekindled. Last March we connected 
over a cappuccino — that's me — and a cup of herbal tea — 
that's him — in Seattle. He'd given up coffee some time be- 
fore. No small feat, particularly in a town that prides itself on 
consuming more caffeine than the Italians do. 

Why do I think it's important for you to meet him? Because 
he's a "cultural historian," a "social critic"? Not really, 
though his analysis of Western civilization— read: our lives- 
is provocative and challenging. He gave me the opportunity 
to sit down and think and feel— "events" I don't usually 
mark on my desk calendar these days. That's a decent 
enough reason to meet him; whether you and I believe ev- 


The current 
collapse of 
industrial society 
may well be 
the planet's way 
of avoiding 
a larger death. 


lodern man 
I and woman 
ara less auton- 
omous and more 
for salvation than 
their counter- 
parts were at any 
other time in 

The body gets left 
behind by an 
entire generation 
by video games. 

I am convinced 
that the 
major historic- 
revolution is yet 
to come. 

rything he says- is irrelevant. 

low often do we completely 
with our friends anyway? 
Before you meet him., though, 
you may need a piece of informa- 
tion, a small window through 
which you can look at Morris Ber- 
man. His maternal grandfather 
left a Russian shtetl to escape con- 
scripvon info l.ho czar's army. He 
reached London in time to watch 
Queen Victoria pass through the 
■streets on her diamond jubilee,- be- 
fore- emigrating to Rochester, 
New York. The contrasts between 
the sheltered ghetto life ofnine- 
leenh-ceniury czarist Russia and 
the (Mew World overwhelmed him. 
"The rest of his life," Berman 
says, "became a wrestling 
match between the world of the 
shtetl— closed butsafe — and the 
larger world — exhilarating, but 
sometimes dangerous." 

Berman loved his grandfather. 
What did he .produce ' in- a socie- 
ty that judges everything by pro- 
ductivity? Berman asks. "Bupkes! 
Nothing! But 1 was given a great' 
gift; I grew up with a truly wise 
and loving man." Berman says he 
inherited his' grandfather's dia-' 

The, above quotes are excerpted 
;>«'.' CoTi.ng tc O-.ir Senses (Simon & 
1989} by Morris Berman. 

logue between reason and revela- 
tion, the sacred and the secular. 
"Whatever is symbolized by the 
phrase 'The truth will make you 
free' is encoded in my genelic his- 
tory. Ignorance is not bliss; i! is 
better to know than not know." 

If you get what he's saying, 
you'll understand why he asks the 
questions he asks, and you 
follow him into the strange and 
wonderful world of epistemology; 
How do we know what we know? 
What does it mean to know, any- 
way? Is reality nothing more than 
a Cultural artifact? How do we 
"choose" our value systems? 
Why do we need woridviews, 
paradigms? People like Morris 
Berman aren't out to offend. 
But if you're in pursuit of the 
"truth," you don't usually bow 
before cultural icons or cherished 
beliefs, religious or political. 
Sometimes these people trouble 
our easy sleep. 

We meet each other in various 
circumstances and ways — a little 
help from our friends, chance en- 
counters, deliberate schemings, 
and sometimes, through a per- 
son's words, the logos. 

It's odd, Morris Berman's just 
talking history, but because he 
talks about what he calls "somat- 
ic history," you sense his pres- 

If a cross on the 
wall cheats 
believers of genu- 
ine spiritual 
experience, it 
lets them lead 
a "happy," 
programmed life. 

Ater dreaming 
that the ani- 
mals In his private 
menagerie were 
planning to eat 
him, Henry III of 
France person- 
ally killed them 
all, on January 
20, 1583. 

It is clear that 
psychic distance 
must now be 
abandoned as the 
criterion of truth. 

When was 
the last 
time you observed 
yourself In 
the act of dusting 
the dining 
room table? 

When you've 
lost your body, 
you need an Ism. 

w k ; 

have our 
own mythology, 
our own real 
possibilities to 
live out; we 
are each our own 
central metaphor. 

Can you recall 
your first 
conscious mo- 
ment? Can 
you recall how 
old you were 
when it occurred? 

detachment is 
driven by a very 
definite emotion— 
the craving for 
psychological and 
existential security. 

ence among the words; he 
evokes feelings. It's very nice. So 
as you read on, gauge the twinge 
in your gut; check out your level 
of curiosity or restlessness; real- 
ize when you're smiling or furrow- 
ing your brow; hear the protesta- 
tion, the "Nein"; notice what 
your body is telling you. If you 
get restless, it's okay, "Restless- 
ness," Berman says, "is the 
body's way of flashing us an es- 
sential message: This is 
bullshit; don't listen." I, for one, 
never got restless; I just "got" 
curious— all over, like a case 
of goose bumps.— Murray Cox 

Omni: Today's Good Friday, a 
day when Christians remem- 
ber the death of Christ. 
Berman: Oh, yes, this issue 
of Omni is on the future of 
God. You really should be in- 
terviewing Nietzsche. 
Omni: Well, sure. But let me 
ask anyway: You say that 
i ascent theology is embed- 
ded in the consciousness 
and religious structure of 
the West. 

Berman: Yes, it codes our per- 
ceptual reality — everything 
from architecture to moon voy- 
ages, The code is always ver- 
tical. The easiest way to under- 

stand the ascent phenomenon 
is to look at the differences 
between the Eastern and West- 
ern mystical traditions. Zen 
masters say there are no hid- 
den meanings; What you 
see is what you get. Style 
is content. Chopping 
wood, carrying water, 
drinking espresso- 
such activities are 
"God." Western reli- 
gious practitioners, how- 
ever, claim there is a hid- 
den meaning — most of- 
ten called God^and 
the point of religious ac- 
tivity is to contact what is 
behind the appearances. 
We inherited a set of Gnos- 
tic beliefs which tell us that at 
birth, the soul gets trapped in a 
material body but yearns for high- 
er consciousness. Through var- 
ious techniques, the soul can es- 
cape the body, ascend to the 
heavens, and see God the Father 
on the throne. 

Western Christology is based 
on a redeemer who ascends and 
descends, moving up and down 
the vertical axis. It's this vertical 
experience that codes Western re- 
ality. Look at any intellectual 
scheme — Marxism, Platonism, 
Christianity — there's always a hid- 

den reality in which the things on the 
surface are explained by the things be- 
neath. Ascent is based on a hierarchi- 
cal model. A spiritual elite has "been 
there" and knows how to get the rest 
of us up the ladder. Even our political 
structure is based on a guru mentality. 
In that sense, Thomas Jefferson has to 
be the greatest breakthrough in the his- 
tory of the world: "All men are created 
equal"— and women, too. 
Omni: Why are we propelled to search 
lor God? 

Berman; For complex reasons that 
come out of the experiences of child- 
hood: the damage to the self, and the 
shift from the kinesthetic to the visual. 
Much mystical experience comes from 
early childhood damage and is motivat- 
ed by the desire to fill a void. British psy- 
chologist Donald Winnicott and 
French scholars, including Jacques La- 
can and philosopher Merleau-Ponty, 
claim that the most traumatic event in 
life is the moment 1 become aware, usual- 
ly in the third year of life, of my specu- 
lar or mirror image and realize that that 
image is what people mean when they 
say, "Maury Berman." Before this over- 
whelming discovery, all of us feel one 
with the external environment. Afterward 
there is a tear in the fabric: I am "in 
here" and "that" is "out there." 

The event is traumatic because you 
realize you can be an other for other oth- 
ers; you can be interpreted from the out- 
side in a way inimical or antagonistic to 
the way you experience yourself. It's the 
beginning of alienation. To make up for 
that early damage — and there's more 
damage than just the realization in 
front of the mirror— we try to grasp the 
mirror image as real and begin to 
search for God, usually in a series of 
substitute satisfactions: addictions to al- 
cohol, career, fame, whatever. Ideolo- 
gies, isms, war, are all attempts to find 
"God" in things that finally will not de- 
liver, will not alleviate the emptiness. To 
me, loss of the self is loss of God, and 
we spend most of our lives chasing it. 
There's a line from one of Theodore 
Ftoethke's poems: "Running from God 
is the longest race of all." I'd say run- 
ning toward God is the longest race of 
all. They're the same thing. And yet, 
this running may not be necessary. 
Omni: How is the split between Self 
and Other played out in our lives? 
Berman; The Gulf War is the latest man- 
ifestation of this tragedy. That eighty- 
seven percent of our population back- 
ed President Bush shows that he is 
America writ large, and our pain and 
alienation is at least eighty-seven per- 
cent widespread. Thirteen percent of 

"Do you mind if I use my ponable electronic calculator?" 

the people may be saying, "There may 
be a greater strength than just pursu- 
ing binary opposition in order to over- 
come my internal split." But why did we 
get so excited over this particular inva- 
sion? America, Bush told us, stands for 
freedom and justice; we-will not con- 
done naked aggression. Most Ameri- 
cans apparently bought that version. 
Marxists argued, the real issue is oil, 
that if Kuwait had been a major export- 
er of broccoli, we wouldn't have spent 
five minutes defending the place. A 
third explanation is the conspiracy the- 
ory. Bush faced problems at home he 
couldn't solve: the S & L bailout, which 
is going to cost a fortune; the intifada, 
which was distancing us from Israel and 
becoming increasingly embarrassing; 
the environmental problem and the de- 
cay of our cities. So the administration 
diverted our attention by creating an ene- 
my. It's the Falklands War revisited, 
when Thatcher waved the banner of 
the Great Commonwealth, which, of 
course, no longer existed. . 

My take: The war was basically un- 
conscious. We live in a world of early 
childhood damage of which George 
Bush is probably an excellent represen- 
tative: Look at his stiff body language, 
his mechanical behavior. He got elect- 
ed because he echoes our body lan- 
guage. When the opportunity arises to 
forget about our internal damage, we 
embrace it. The ego, in order to main- 
tain its integrity and identity, has to 
have an enemy, so it becomes like a 
heat-seeking missile. After glasnost, we 
lost our enemy of forty years, the Sovi- 
et Union. For a few months, we talked 
about giving money to art or medicine 
or education: we floated around in am- 
biguity but finally couldn't handle it. If 
we can understand our inability to tol- 
erate ambiguity, and the fact that the 
ego must have an enemy in order to 
feel whole, then this war is completely 
explicable. We would have fought Gha- 
na, Antarctica, it doesn't really matter. 
We had to find an enemy. Of course, 
Saddam Hussein was a perfect target. 

What emerges as strength in this cul- 
ture? The person who wages peace or 
lives without heroism? No. Just the op- 
posite. Watch the body language of our 
elected officials, It's wonderful— I 
mean, sad, but wonderful. When 
George Bush announced that we were 
going to war, The New York Times de- 
clared, "A somber President Bush..." 
Somber? He was giddy. There's a pa- 
thetic quality to our heroism, and eighty- 
seven percent of the country apparent- 
ly thinks that's what strength is about. 
Omni: Historically, has the ego always 
needed an enemy? 
> on page as 


















ing to 

the paper: This Gotha 
ly model of i 
have a wingsj 
My stepfather had gi* 
kit for my birthday, 
talked to anybody who's t 
except maybe you. Now turn the 
volume back up." But the song 
id the disc jockey \ 

lout Lou Cos- 

ho died back in March. I 

r remember if he was 













hand back and forth on the cush- 
ion while he would try to ca' ' 
And then when he did, he u- 
hold it tight and we'd laugh. L — 
had gray hair, and everybody 

who Mom 
I were. He thought Mom 

lly when he had 
an attack and then talked in a lan- 
guage that sounded like Op-talk. 
Mom said it w— u 

brain wasn't \ ,. 

knew that if I could only under- 
bid it, everything ' 

help him get well. But tl 
died, and I never got to ! 
bye in a way he could understai . u 
ause his brain never did get 
right again. 
Crocker didn't say anything 

When I had 
wings, which we 


shit, what are you looking af?" 

rith all this dead 
people stuff?" I asked, trying to 
1 being. 

i ever done it, that's all." 
"Done what?" 
"I just told you! Talk to dead 


"Have youT I asked, knowing 
for sure I would get on — ' 

bullshit pniuupre 

;ry day I check the paper 
if there's anything going on 
: the funeral home on the corner 
i and Main. If there is, I 

just sort of walk in and talk to the 
corpse in the casket. If not, I come over 

"And nobody says nothing to you? 
They just let you walk in and talk to 

"They ain't bothered me yet." After 
a pause, he said, "You wanna go with 
me today? They got somebody in 
there," and he showed me the obitu- 
ary column from the Sun-Bulletin. I 
glanced at what he was trying to show 
me and shook out the sports section. 
Patterson was fighting Ingemar Johans- 
son on Friday. I was rooting for Patter- 
son, who had KO'd Archie Moore in '56. 

"You wanna go with me and see for 
yourself or not?" Crocker asked, indig- 
nantly ripping the paper out of my 
hands. "Or are you afraid?" 

"Screw you!" 

"You probably never been to a funer- 
al in your life." 

"I've been to funerals before," I 
said. "Everybody has." 

"But did you ever see a dead per- 

I had to say no to that. "I never even 
saw my own father after he died." 

That certainly shut him up, but he 
had such a sorrowful look on his face 
that I felt sorry for him. 

"I'm Jewish," I said, "and Jews can't 

have open caskets. Of course, there 
must be a reason for that, but I don't 
know what it is." 

"How'd he die?" Crocker asked, fum- 
bling around with his hands as if he 
wasn't used to having them. 

"Something wrong with his liver." 

"Like from drinking?" he asked. 

"No, it was nothing like that," 1 said.- 
But I had heard my mother talking to the 
doctor; maybe he did get sick from drink- 
ing, although I swear I can't remember 
seeing him drunk or anything. And I had 
just about had it with Crocker's ques- 
tions; he was acting like Jack Webb on 
Dragnet. You'd think he would have to 
shut up after I told him about my father. 
But not Crocker. He was a nosy little bas- 
tard. After a pause, he asked, "Did you 
ever talk to him after he died?" 

"You're out of your freaking gourd, 
Cracker. Mobody but an a-hole thinks 
he can talk to people after they're 

"If you come with me today, I'll 
prove it to you." 

"No way, sucker. I got better things 
to do than act like a nimblenarm." 

"With your father being dead and all, 
I can't blame you for being afraid," 
Crocker said. "I'd be, too." 

"Crocker, get the hell out of my life," 
I said. I guess I shouted at him, be- 

"Wouidn't it be cheaper to raise the level of education of our 
people by shooting everyone who is uneducated?" 

cause he looked real nervous. But I 
didn't need him spreading it all over the 
place that I was afraid to look at a 
dead person. Christ, Crock-a-shit had 
a bigger mouth than my mother. 

"Okay," I said, "but if I don't hear 
this dead person talk like you say, I'm 
going to break your head." I said it as 
if I meant it. 

I guess I did. 

But that only seemed to make Crock- 
er happy, for he nodded and helped 
me put away my Gotha bomber. 

The worst part of it was that I had to 
sneak into my house and put on a suit 
and tie, because Crocker said you can't 
just walk in with jeans and a T-shirt. 

But a deal was a deal. 

I met him at the back of the club- 
house, and we walked to the funeral 
home. It was a hot, humid summer, and 
boring as hell. There was never any- 
thing to do, and even going down to the 
club and smoking and working on mod- 
els was boring. And to make matters 
worse, I thought about Marie Dickson 
all the time. She was so... beautiful \ I 
would see her around once in a while, 
but I never said anything to her. I was 
waiting for the right time. 

Not a good way to get through a 
summer. Anyway, she was always with 
a girlfriend, and I was most times by my- 
self. No way was I going to walk up to 
her and make a complete asshole of my- 
self in front of her and her girliriend. She 
hung around with a fat girl, probably be- 
cause it made her look even better; it 
seemed all the good-looking girls did 

"Okay, you ready?" Crocker asked 
as we approached the front stairs to the 
building, which was gray and white, 
with lots of gingerbread like my parents' 

"I was born ready. Let's go." 

1 hated this place already. 

"We'll go in right after these people," 
Crocker said, nodding in the direction 
of a crowd waiting to get past the door 
into the parlor. "Pretend like you're 
with them." So we followed them inside. 
I was all sweaty and the sharp blast of 
the air-conditioning felt good. 

The old people ahead of us all 
stopped to write in a book that rested 
on what looked like a music stand; but 
Crocker really knew his way around 
here and led me right into a large, dim- 
ly lit, carpeted room with high windows 
covered with heavy blue drapes. Peo- 
ple were standing around and talking, 
soft organ music was playing, and 
there was a line of people filing past an 
ornate casket that was surrounded 
with great bushes of flowers. 

"Let's go see it and get the hell out 

of here," I said, feeling uncomfortable. 
I looked around. Even though this, 
room was certainly big enough, I felt as 
if I was being closed up in a closet. And 
I figured it had to be just a matter of 
time before someone would see we 
weren't supposed to be here and kick 
us out. 

"Wait till the line gets through," Crock- 
er said. But a woman wearing a silky 
black dress and one of those round pill- 
box hats with a veil put her hand on my 
shoulder and asked, "Did you go to 
school with Matt?" 

I looked at her, and I've got to say I 
was scared, although I don't really 
know why I should have been. "Uh, yes, 
ma'am," I said, looking to Crocker — 
who was supposed to be the profession- 
al — to pull us out of this. 

"I'm his aunt Leona. You should 
meet his mom and dad, they're right 
there." She pointed to a tall balding 
man and a skinny woman who made 
me think of some sort of bird. "Stay 
right here and I'll get them," Aunt Leo- 
na said, "I'm sure they'll want to talk to 

I could only nod. When the woman 
walked away, I said, "What the hell did 
you get us into?" 

Crocker looked nervous, too, but he 

said. "Didn't you read the obituary?" 

"Piss off, Crocker." 

"Well, it was a kid who lived in Endi- - 
cott. His family moved to Virginia. I can't 
remember the rest." 

"You should have told me it was a 
kid. Christ Almighty!" 

"You shoulda read what I gave you," 
he said in a singsong voice that made 
me want to crown him. 

"How'd he die?" I asked. 

"I dunno," Crocker said, "They don't 
tell you that kind of stuff in the paper." 

"Well, did he go to our school?" 

"I can't remember," Crocker said, but 
it was too late anyway, because Aunt 
Leona brought a whole crowd to talk to 
us. I was really nervous now. 

What were we supposed to say to 
the dead kid's parents? 

Although it surprised the living hell 
right out of me, Cracker and I managed 
to hold our own. We said how sorry we 
were and what a nice guy he was, how 
he played a mean stickball and was a 
regular nut for Bill Haley and the Com- 
ets and Jackie Wilson— you know, "Lone- 
ly Teardrops" — and it was the craziest 
damn thing because it was almost as 
if we did know this kid. With all the cry- 
ing and hugging going on around us, 
I started to get that thunder sound in 

my ears, which I always used to hear 
before I was going io cry. 

I hadn't heard thai sound in a long 

I didn't even hear it at my dad's fu- 
neral, or at the house when everyone 
stood around and told me I had to be 
a big boy and all that crap, It wasn't un- 
til months later that I heard the thunder 
sound, when I was in the house alone 
and practicing the piano. I looked up 
and saw Dad's photograph on the pi- 
ano; and suddenly, like I was crazy all 
of a sudden, I heard the thunder and 
then I started to cry. It made me feel 
sick, But after that, I didn't cry again. 

Until now. 

Everybody was crying, including me, 
and Crock-a-shit excused both of us so 
we could pay our respects to the de- 
parted {that's just what he said). As 
soon as we were out of their reach, he 
said, "Steve, you're good at this." 

"So are you," I said, pretending that 
it was all an act, "Now let's get it over 

"Okay," Crocker said, and we stood 
right before the casket and looked into 
it. I could smell the flowers — the ones 
with the long wormy fhings inside 
them— but they didn't smell bad. The 
cont-nuej on page 94 

Still uneclipsed 

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abductions, and E.T. anatomy 

. ™^^d UFO sightings, field. "Previous 
and telephone numbers for UFO sightings o 

n. who claims that "the evidera 
ing that planet Earth is being visited by intelligently c 
"I think the government is i 

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> all the technological developments of the Committee for the Scientific I 

n to a knowledge of alien anatomy, the Parano 

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ming from a planet man is in tf, 

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Eastern Michigan University. 
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kissing the wrong / 
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w.,„d lor hidden lion describing the 

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iiich did not look long enough "you 

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Then, in the early in any random set of letters 

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craft, so that when they communicate 
with (heir strategic mair frame comput- 
er, the entire system would become in- 
fected. Overall, the hacker phenome- 
non undercuts the authority ol informa- 
tion generated through computer sys- 
tems. So far, most corporations have 
been rather casual about the potential 
of computer viruses, deciding that the 
costs of correcting virus damage 
would be less than the cost of secur- 
ing the systems from invasion. 

Digitization makes other information 
vulnerable as well. If an image or 
sound is converted to digital form, op- 
erators can alter the iinal output with- 
out a frace. According to studies at the 
Rochester Institute of Technology, a 
world leader in optics, one out of every 
fen color photographs has been altered- 
in some way. More than 500 major cor- 
porations possess electronic systems 
that can alter a photograph's color and 
composition or even combine elements 
from different photographs. The popu- 
lar coffee-table book A Day in the Life 
of America allegedly documented Amer- 
ican activities on a given day in histo- 
ry. Photographers spanned the coun- 
try, capturing journalistic images of 
what people actually do every day. Yet 
the publishers altered the cover photo 
document to make it more impactful. 
Said more harshly, they rewrote histo- 
ry. What rationale would be so strong 
as to undermine the credibility of the 
book's intended purpose? According to 
Collins Pub ishers spokesperson Patti 
Richards, "The cover sells the book."' 

Using digital technology, techno- 
digital wizards can replace people in 
photographs, taking one party away 
from a scene of the crime, for example, 
and placing someone else there. In tra- 
ditional photographic touch-up technol- 
ogy, such a change would be obvious 
to a photo expert, but in the digital 
world, experts cannot see the change 
because the "negative" is a series of 
changeable eiechoric impulses and be- 
cause each print is an "original." Does 
this moot copyright laws? How can a 
photographer sustain rights over im- 
ages that are no longer identifiable? 

The same technological principle has 
reached the music industry. Studio "sam- 
pling" extracts fro--" akcaoy-created dig- 
ital recordings the sounds ol particular 
musicians (say, the drummer of the Roll- 
ing Stones and the bass player from 
James Brown's band) and combines 
them to create a totally new sound. How 
can musicians protect the integrity of 

their sounds in such an environment? 
For certain, advances in digital editing 
of images and sounds have made the 
concept of "originality" nearly ana- 
chronistic and threaten to make photo- 
graphic and audiotaped evidence in 
oounrooms and m:elligcrce for battle- 
fields highly questionable. 

Using similar technology, two Mon- 
treal filmmakers cea;ec a completely 
fictitious film that starred Humphrey Bo- 
gart and Marilyn Monroe, both of whose 
moving images on-screen came from 
manipulating dicitizec versions of orig- 
inal still photographs. Digital Vision En- 
tertainment in California has a stable of 
"stars" available for the movies, all of 
whom exist only in the computer. They 
are, so to speak, the third generation 
of Max Headroom without the cartoon 
visage of the original computer-made 
star. These new characters are real- 
time, humanlike computer images, 
each exhibiting traits that exploit pop- 
ular fashion. 

This digital process, when mixed 
with virtual reaiity techniques— comput- 
er software that creates an artificial but 
increasingly foolproof representation of 
the natural world — could create entire- 
ly fictitious events. Not only could 
these computer-driven events include 
people who are deaf or were not aware 
of their images' manipulation, they 
could likewise include people who do 
not and never did exist. While the tech- 
nology has positive uses (e.g., teach- 
ing, motion pictures), it has its liabilities. 
Advertising, political campaigns, prop- 
aganda, and judicial proceedings 
must already withstand assaults of hy- 
perbole. What could they become 
should this technology become accept- 
ed? Could professional organizations 
and consumer groups offer a sufficient- 
ly-potent ethical balance to these tech- 
nological breakthroughs? 

Data compression — the ability to 
"compress" or reduce digital informa- 
tion through sofrwa.-a eh" denotes in or- 
der to transmit it faster and cheaper — 
has reached the status of "hot" technol- 
ogy, The implications of this technology 
are impressive — offering to make tele- 
visions, telephones, and computers in- 
to branches of one single communica- 
tions system that wires together every- 
thing from business to the home. Such 
a gee-whiz technology, however, 
could facilitate those who would under- 
mine the system. For example, one 
side effect of its development is the in- 
creased potential for videoconfer- 
encing — the greatly enhanced ability to 
hold electronically linked meetings 
with people in different physical loca- 
tions. While new and cheaper videocon- 
ferencing equipment could save com- 


9iiti//ed< 25m*W Si* 

Think Green. 

A singular experience. 

panies thousands of dollars in travel ex- 
penses, each meeting would nonethe- 
less depend upon the digital process, 
once again making it vulnerable to un- 
wanted intrusions, Ihefts, and alter- 
ations. If this vulnerability becomes sys- 
temic throughout television, telephone, 
and computer communications, then 
any transmitted information could be- 
come suspect. 

While human misuse of technology 
has reached bothersome levels, tech- 
nology can also assume a worrisome 
life of its own. TRW computer design- 
ers expressed surprise when a large net- 
work of computers they created began 
exhibiting "strange, unpredictable" be- 
havior. During these periods, the sys- 
tem could not perform specific tasks as 
requested- TRW suspected "chaos," an 
uncontrollable but natural mathematical 
phenomenon, which mysteriously at- 
tacks complex computer systems. Sci- 
entists at the Xerox Palo Alto Research 
Center conducted a series of experi- 
ments and discovered that, indeed, 
large aggregates of connected comput- 
ers can exhibit unpredictably wild os- 
cillations and unstable behavior, gen- 
erating unwanted actions in the system. 
The reality of computer instability — 
that is, the real potential for chaotic be- 
havior—has raised professional con- 

cerns about the appropriate level of com- 
puter dependence for military, corpo- 
rate, and informational systems. 

Whether the problem is human or 
technological, dependency has its 
price. The greater the capability, the 
greater the complexity, and the great- 
er the complexity, the greater the de- 
pendence on fewer and fewer people 
who truly understand it. As a result, out- 
siders become skeptical of insiders' ex- 
planations. The U.S. Navy insisted that 
the Aegis system aboard the U.S.S. Vin- 
cennes did not malfunction when the 
ship fired upon and downed an Iranian 
airliner. -The Navy insisted that human 
errorwas involved. Perhaps as a precau- 
tion against iingering doubts about the 
military'stechnological capabilities, Pen- 
tagon officials during the Persian Gulf 
War emphasized the precision and pow- 
er of U.S. technology. Military generals 
and President George Bush insisted 
that the war was "on schedule," and im- 
ages of aircraft locating and destroying 
their military targets made their way 
from the battlefield to the Pentagon and 
onto the evening news. But concern 
over excessive dependence on technol- 
ogy goes beyond military uses. 

Historically, political critics have ar- 
gued that the ability to control informa- 
tion could undermine democracy. 

[to? wsf BdBfleaawi©! 

Those with their hands on the levers of 
information flow, the argument went, 
whether they be editors, politicians, pro- 
ducers," or public relations officers, 
could mislead the public and make it 
impossible to reach an informed, dem- 
ocratic decision. The counterargument 
ran that more information created the 

Prior to digital information, withhold- 
ing information remained a valuable 
way to control public discussions. For 
example, battlefield assessments in the 
Persian Gulf War widely reported to the 
media during the war proved after the 
war to be overstated. When the hostili- 
ties ended, information slowly reached 
the press that 70 percent of U.S. gravi- 
ty bombs missed their targets (quite dif- 
ferent Irom the released videotape im- 
ages of "smart" bombs finding their way 
to specific chimneys); that the bomb- 
ing had not, as originally claimed, de- 
stroyed 75 percent of Iraq's oil refining 
capability; that "at most" 350,000 Iraqi 
troops had faced U.S. troops along the 
Saudi Arabian front (not the "more 
than" 500,000 troops reported); and 
that the Iraqi troops were not battle hard- 
ened but, in fact, battle weary from 
their eight-year war with Iran. 

These informational errors were part 
of an expected government strategy to 
keep domestic support high for the war. 
Information control in wartime is some- 
thing the society involved accepts or re- 
jects based upon its own assessment 
of what is needed. Bui digitization 
could convert disinformation from a prop- 
aganda tool into an exact science. 
Those with their hands on the key- 
boards of digitized information systems 
could drop, add, adjust, and reshape 
our entire reality. 

Again, oneexample surfaced during 
the Persian Gulf crisis. Immediately af- 
ter Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, 
President Bush showed King Fahd's am- 
bassador to the United States top se- 
cret satellite photographs of Iraqi 
troops within striking distance of Saudi 
oil fields. The next day President Bush 
sent Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney 
to Riyadh to show the photographs to 
the king After that meeting, the U.S. 
and coalition deployment began. 

In September the St. Petersburg 
Times purchased Soviet commercial sat- 
ellite photographs of the Middle East re- 
gion (for two days in September) and 
then gave those photos to retired de- 
fense intelligence officials for decipher- 
ing. The independent experts conclud- 
ed that no significant Iraqi troop mass- 
ing existed on the Saudi border. 
Which set of photos — those the United 
States showed King Fahd or the ones 
sold to the U.S. newspaper — conveyed 

84 OMNI 

the correct information, if, indeed, either, 
set did? Is there an "original" that could 
be said to have an accurate image? Dig- 
ital technology, because it permits alter- 
ation at the electronic level, does not 
leave a trace of the change for outside 
observers to discover. 

With the ability to amend digital in- 
formation without a trace, knowing the 
truth becomes synonymous with believ- 
ing the truth. Which set of photographs 
do you believe is accurate? One's 
choice reverts to belief for validation rath- 
er than depending on technology for au- 
thoritative verification. More important, 
believing filters personal biases and prej- 
udices into the decision. In essence, dig- 
ital technology — a rational system — 
.becomes a vehicle to exploit nonration- 
al points of view; when it comes to any- 
thing involving digital communications 
technology, the phrase "seeing is be- 
lieving" is becoming an increasingly 
naive aphorism. 

This threat to information veracity 
comes at a time when the fundamen- 
tals of society are already under close 
scrutiny. Wall Street moral lapses, gov- 
ernment mismanagemeni, political cor- 
ruption, suspicion of corporations, en- 
vironmental hazards, and distrust of 
large institutions of all kinds make the 
problem of information pollution'seem 
even greater. The Wall Street scandal 
was possible because of the extraor- 

dinary capabilities of communications 
and computational technology. 

At the same time, computers empow- 
ered corporate raiders and armed bot- 
tom-line analysts alike, both threatening 
job security for those not in front of the 
keyboards. At one time, the social con- 
tract between employee and employer 
seemed ever : astirg. oTenng many em- 
ployees a life's salary in return for a 
life's work. But debt loads and financial 
analysis have forced layoffs and cut- 
backs to hit even the most loyal compa- 
nies, leaving formerly assumed social 
contracts in tatters. 

English Luddites of the early nine- 
teenth century hated the machines that 
displaced them so much, they mount- 
ed night raids to destroy the factories 
that had made human handicrafts ob- 
solete. Today computers do not simply 
do human work, although they can; 
they also facilitate complex calculations 
that suggest certain jobs are not pro- 
ductive or efficient enough. As a result, 
even more people have lost their jobs. 
Ironically, the computer itself has cre- 
ated some efficiency problems. 

Computer technology promised the pa- 
perless office, but paper use increased 
six times in the decade following the in- 
troduction of the personal computer. Of- 
fice technology promised more leisure 
time, but in. the years following'the ad- 
vent of computers, mobile phones, and 
fax machines, work hours spread over 
another six hours. Psychology Today 
printed the results of a survey that 
asked people what they would do if 
they had four hours added to their 
days. The largest percentage oi respon- 
dents chose reading (33 percent), 
while others chose household tasks (31 
percent) and hobbies (27 percent). In- 
formation technology was not on the 
list. No one said "listen to a book" or 
"watch a video." 

People pushing away from the onrush 
of information manipulation and choos- 
ing instead to garden (the number one 
outdoor activity), play with the kids, or 
take a walk may be an example of Amer- 
icans' ability to avoid dealing with prob- 
lems. It may also suggest, however, 
that people are seeking ways to avoid 
excessive dependence upon technol- 
ogy and to negate the authority of those 
who control it. 

Those "in charge," despite the mili- 
tary's successful Persian Gulf action, do 
not seem to be as much in control as 
formerly believed. Computer hackers 
and digital photo manipulators under- 
mine the credibility of the control that 
high-tech gadgetry promised. Nuclear 
accidents in Japan have reawakened 
the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl 
fears of technology running uncon- 

trolled. Perhaps anxiety over the short- 
comings of technology is causing peo- 
ple to step back and take a breath. 

In the nineteenth century, not too 
many years after the Luddites disrupt- 
ed British factories, French writer Alex- 
is de Tocqueville, discussing American 
institutions, wrote that "true information 
is mainly derived from experience." As 
an extension of human abilities, tech- 
nology promised a more effective, 
more accurate set of experiences. Re- 
cent innovations and the reactions 
they have provoked, however, have taint- 
ed that promise. The rapidly expanding 
population of techno-outsiders stands as 
proof of the undemocratic effects of tech- 
nology upon social institutions. The grow- 
ing number of people who use com- 
puters find that they are working more 
rather than fewer hours because of the 
new machinery, and they have pulled 
back from their desks. The higher elites 
who design the machinery find them- 
selves in a battle with disgruntled hack- 
ers who play a game of sabotage the 
way children play Nintendo. All in all, 
De Tocquevi le's thought that experience 
is the only true source of information has 
come full circle. With untrustable data 
and manipulated realities, personal 
experience has again become the best 
source of knowledge. Every step for- 
ward, as Marshall McLuhan intimated, 
is also a step backward. DO 




Berman: No. It's my guess the sharp 
split between Self and Other occurred 
during the Neolithic agricultural revo- 
lution [about 8000-9000 B.C.], when an- 
imals were domesticated, it's important 
to understand the differences between 
Paleolithic [hunter-gatherer] and agricul- 
tural people. In hunter-gatherer times, 
tendencies in the human psyche lor con- 
flict are indicated in the archaeological 
rectord — flint arrowheads embedded in 
skulls, for example. But war— organized 
conllict, including i.ho building of fortress- 
■ es, which is the Self/Other line made 
manifest in stone, the concept of ihe 
"boundary," the erection of city wails- 
all of this happened during the agri- 
cultural revolution. 

Self/Other distinction can exist with- 
out turning into Self/Other opposition. A 
differentiated universe can still be friend- 
ly. With the domestication of animals, 
however, Neolithic people separated 
the wild (for example, tigers) from the 
tame (horses, for instance) and creat- 
ed binary thinking. A distinction is 
made between the Other that is now 
seen as "me" and the Other that is iden- 
tified as "not me." The major psychic 

fallout for human beings is that Self and 
Other now constitute an antagonism — 
not a polarity. Self is tame — "good"; Oth- 
er is wild — "bad." 

We were hunter-gatherers for a mil- 
lion and a half years, and then we sat 
down for ten thousand years. Given the 
time line, war and binary opposition are 
aberrations. I hope we will eventually ad- 
dress our somatic nature and look into 
the face of our pain. Until we do that, 
there's no way out from "inventing" his- 
tory. Even World War II was invented in 
this sense, although I'm certainly glad 
we defeated Hitler. I wouldn't be here 
if we hadn't. We've had ten thousand 
years of a "nightmare," as James 
Joyce put if, because we've rarely 
grasped the nature of our own need for 
"God" or the extent of our somatic dam- 
age. If God has a future, it lies in the 
body, or at least through it. 
Omni: How do Paleolithic and Neolith- 
ic worldviews compare? 
Berman: The Paleolithic evidence is 
lost in the mist of time — a few skeletons, 
arrowheads, cave paintings, and con- 
temporary aboriginal cultures that may 
provide clues as to what life was like. 
The Neolithic evidence, on the other 
hand, is fairly good. Given that caveal, 
I'd say the emphasis on verticality in 
Neolithic times is fairly obvious. In 


Ncolnhic culture. Goo' is seen at the top 
of the axis, and humans, at the bottom, 
must climb the ladder to God. Look at 
the architecture: pyramids or monumen- 
tal temple structures, symbolic of the 
sharp division between the sacred and 
the secular. And if you're stuck in a Neo- 
lithic [farming] mentality, you ask only 
one Question o! Ihe plant world, for exam- 
ple: What is edible; what is inedible? 
That's the binary world. 

Hunter-gatherers, however, lived in 
a culture in which subjectivity was 
raised to such a pitch that everything 
seemed to blaze. Imagine living in an 
eroticized world all the time. The Paleo- 
lithic worldview can perhaps best be de- 
scribed as kaleidoscopic. The modern 
psyche, on the other hand, seeks an in- 
tensity of focus. For example, in the elev- 
enth century we create romantic love 
and start to place a tremendous em- 
phasis on the significant other, and on 
sexuality, because by now eros 
doesn'f exist anywhere else. 

In hunter-gatherer societies, eros is 
diffused throughout the entire culture: 
Leaves, berries, and animals all shim- 
mer. Each plant is unique. God is a "hor- 
izontal" God who permeates the envi- 
ronment. But we lifted the horizontal ax- 
is into a vertical one and now need to 
make wars or find oblivion. Junkies shool- 
ing heroin on street corners are essen- 
tially looking for God and finding Him, 
in a strange sort of way. 
Omni: Can we return to a golden age 
when the race was not beset by war, 
madness, and binary conflict? 
Berman: No. A hunter-gatherer state de- 
pends on small population clusters, 
bands of five hundred or less, achieved 
by a kind of casual infanticide. We're 
not, I hope, going to practice infanti- 
cide, which means we now have to main- 
tain a population of nearly six billion peo- 
ple. But if we can'f go back, we can go 
forward in a new way that may allow for 
a recovery of that earlier, nonbinary con- 
sciousness and a recovery of a lost so- 
matic integrily. 

Omni: What is somatic history? 
Berman: We've discussed one exam- 
ple — the various interpretations of the 
Gulf War. George Bush's body lan- 
guage and our need to be "redeemed" 
are not going to appear in print. But 
that is precisely the sort of information 
that would show up in a somatic histo- 
ry of the war. In a larger sense, there is 
a hidden somatic level on which histo- 
ry proceeds. When we write history, we 
skim off the visible shell — the history 
oi ego consciousness — palpable, mate- 
rial events. We look at artifacts: Pottery 
shards are hard: they endure. But 
what aboul the stuff that doesn't en- 
dure, the nonralional toundations of 

history— humor, anger, and fantasy? 

The human drama is first and fore- 
most a somatic one. Suppose some 
tribe had a marvelous mode of conflict 
resolution; suppose they had a wonder- 
ful technique of dream analysis. That's 
not hard data; it doesn't show up in a 
rock. The soft underbelly is the somat- 
ic history, and my argument, damn it, 
is that's where the real drama of our 
lives, not what's reported on the six 
o'clock news, takes place. What was 
congealed in the Berlin Wall, in terms 
of pain and grief? That's somatic histo- 
ry: an "artifact" packed with human sto- 
ries. I'm not advocating turning history 
into anecdotes or projecting any half- 
baked idea onto a vacuum. But we 
have to modify the methodologies of da- 
ta accumulation and analysis we 
learned in the nineteenth century and 
create new ones. I don't have answers, 
but I do have some guesses as to 
what a new methodology would consist 
of. The evidence should not be limited 
to what we find in old manuscripts. 
Omni: You have written about the his- 
tory of mirrors. How does the history of 
the mirror parallel the development of 

Berman: I assume that if mirrors are 
more present in a culture at any point, 
it means a greater interest in self-aware- 
ness. II turns out that the Venetians be- 
gan to manufacture si vored glass on 
the Isle of Murano during the Renais- 
sance — part of the so-called "emerg- 
ence of the individual." The obsession 
with mirrors climaxes at the Hall of Mir- 
rors at the Palace of Versailles, where 
people constant y looked at :hemselves. 
Chart the manufacture and diffusion of 
reflecting surfaces, and you get a 
curve of the nature of sell-awareness in 
■ any period. The mirror as the map of the 
evolution of consciousness is a good ex- 
ample of the type of methodology we 
might consider when examining somat- 
ic history. Technology is also a record 

Omni: The American educator John 
Holt claimed that children come into the 
world with a biological urge to make 
sense of it. 

Berman; I call that the "cosmological 
urge." Cosmology explains the order of 
things. The infant comes into the world 
already programmed to make sense of 
it, and that urge is deeper than the 
need to suck the tit. We are creatures 
genetically programmed for meaning. 
From the need to "make" meaning 
comes the desire to create stories, ex- 
planations, theories — our greatness. But 
this can easily slide into an unhealthy 
dependency in which we buy into easy 
explanations that others hand us as 
life rafts. Buying the explanation that 


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Iraq is evil and we had to repel aggres- 
sion — that's sucking the tit. 
Omni: Do you perceive rumblings 
"deep down" that caution, Beware of 
easy answers? 

"erman: Hopefully, yes. That's why I 
wrote about the cycle of heresy and or- 
thodoxy. Rooted in bodily experience, 
heresy rejects the cerebral, formulistic 
life of the dominant culture. Heretical 
movements— Gnosticism, early Christi- 
anity, alchemy, witchcraft — disrupt cul- 
tural patterns that outlived their ability 
to provide genuine spiritual experience. 
A group arises and demonstrates its abil- 
ity to deliver the goods, the essence. 
What happens? It often succeeds, be- 
comes the new orthodoxy, and within 
a century, it itself has forgotten about 
essence and is preoccupied with 
form, As a result, it evokes a new he- 
retical challenge. The goal of all here- 
sy is to undo the process of alienation, 
to take us back to our kinesthetic ori- 
gins. An entire culture can undergo se- 
rious change as a result of the accu- 
mulation of enough psychic or somatic 
changes on an invisible level — the 
stuff of history that's never discussed. 
Omni: Give us an example of a hereti- 
cal movement. 

erman: In ancient Palestine, the 
Jews got frozen around the notion of the 
Torah as sacred text. The Pharisees 

re preoccupied with form and ritual, 

: essence and content. What did 
Christ say? What comes out of your 
mouth is more important than what 
goes into it. Don't give me a tired litany 
about dietary laws, he said. How a hu- 
man thinks and feels is crucial, not 
whether he ties his shoelaces in a cer- 
tain way. The Pharisees taught piety but 
didn't have the fire. 

So a sect grew up in opposition to 
orthodoxy, formed a breakaway move- 
ment. Electricity moved, somatic ener- 
gy flowed — laying on of hands, heal- 

s, speaking in tongues. For about a 
century the system was open; no one 
closed the options. Then the new en- 
ergy hardened and crystallized around 
a dead figure with a dogma and a hi- 
erarchy of priests and deacons. Now 
we read the travelogue instead of tak- 
ing the trip. 

Omni: By Saint Augustine's death 
around A.D. 430, the form solidified. Be- 
tween the fifth and tenth centuries, we 
have a... 

Berman: Strange vacuum, precisely the 
type of phenomenon historians should 
investigate. Christianity emerged out of 
a kind of Jewish Gnosticism and hard- 
ened into a closed cultural entity — a 
dark, singularly monochromatic culture 
known as the early Middle Ages. Look 
at Carolingian art: frozen bodies, frozen 

God. The lack of documents from the 
early Middle Ages on inferiority or inten- 
tionally is a bit creepy. There are only 
two known references to mirrors in sev- 
eral hundred years. 

The American historian Charles Rad- 
ding first proposed the idea that peo- 
ple in this period acted in a robotic 
way — five centuries of strange mechan- 
ical behavior. The Church required pen- 
ance, rather than contrition, for sinful 
acts. Imagine a civilization in which 
there is no inferiority. Few historians 
have seriously considered the possibil- 
ity that people in various periods of his- 
tory could behave and perceive in rad- 
ically entirely different ways than did peo- 
ple in a prior period. 

A total revolution in perception oc- 
curred in the eleventh century, concom- 
itant with the rise of a heretical move- 
ment, the Cathars, who challenged the 
dominant worldview. Inferiority reap- 
peared. Everything changed — the con- 
cept of friendship and marriage, the 
rise of portraiture, an emphasis on in- 
ternal repentance, the importance of in- 
tentionality in legal matters, the devel- 
opment of logical argumentation, the 
practice of private meditation, and the 
birth of romantic love, the idea that I vol- 
untarily commit myself to another per- 
son because of the intensity of feeling. 
The downside: The church began to 
scrutinize the state of your soul, pick- 
ing it apart during the Inquisition. How 
you answered determined whether you 
lived or got burnt at the stake. 
Omni: What is the next system break 
you investigate in your book? 
Berman: The rise of modern science. 
The third heresy starts out as an inquiry 
into nature — the alchemical and magi- 
cal traditions. For the first time in histo- 
ry, the human being is conceived of as 
an operator and an active participant 
in the manipulation of nature, of which 
the greatest document was probably 
The Oration on the Dignity of Man, by 
Pico della Mirandola. The control of na- 
ture—the very heart of the modern sci- 
entific paradigm — has its historical 
roots in the Renaissance Hermetic ver- 
sion of soul travel and ascent. But the 
alchemical worldview hardened into the 
mechanical worldview of the seven- 
teenth century, which, t think, is break- 
ing up today. 

Experimentation, measurement, tech- 
nical mastery became the hallmarks of 
the new age. The question "How?" re- 
placed the question "Why?" Truth was 
equated with utility, thanks to Bacon, 
among others. Newton told us, What is, 
is measurable. Fact and value were 
split apart. Vex nature and nature will 
yield its secrets. So we tortured nature 
for four hundred years, uninterested in 













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the consequences of our inventions. 
Technology became the source of a 
new epistemology embodied in the con- 
cept of experiment. 
Omni: What do you think of the current 
New Age? 

Berman: I'm disappointed. When the 
movement first slashed the fabric of 
the scientific worldview, it was exciting; 
everything seemed to tumble out, and 
new possibilities emerged. But we're 
not willing to stay in ambiguity. We 
turned the New Age into the latest 
plan for redemption, the latest ideolo- 
gy: Holism is our new paradigm. The 
thrill of exploration is gone. We go into 
formula so easily because we're 
scared. I've met people at New Age 
conferences who were into Freud in the 
Fifties. Now they're into crystals. Don't 
they see the form is really the same? 
Omni: You've suggested we "go hori- 
zontal," drop the ascent structure, and 
in the process maybe find the "sacred" 
all around us. Can we do it? 
Berman: The ideal may be somewhere 
around forty-five degrees. The attempt 
to be pure creates a series of neurotic 
problems. A purely horizontal world — 
complete concentration on the void- 
often ends up in a state of nihilism. "Emp- 
tiness," Eastern mystics have realized, 
doesn't mean the annihilation of ego or 
of all verticality, but the esiab^shhg o: 
a relationship with it so that you control 
it rather than being controlled by it. 
Part of the answer is to differentiate be- 
tween the cosmological urge and the 
desperation for salvation or redemption. 
When you strip away the need for sal- 
vation, you open up the possibilities oi 
an organic cosmological urge that's 
true to yourself and is not based on sub- 
stitute drugs. 

I don't categorically put down ortho- 
doxy. If I want to eat chocolate, it's 
nice to have it pressed into little bars 
labeled Hershey. I don't need to stick 
my head in a vat of chocolate and say, 
"Oh! Chocolate, me, and the cosmos!" 
Form is necessary, but it's not God. It 
may be useful for people to congregate 
in a building find s-~o! incense. The key 
is to stay away from the Pharisaical po- 
sition of turning rituals into religions and 
tools into worldyiews. 
Omni: I've been reading Ray Monk's 
new biography of Wittgenstein. In his di- 
ary, Wittgenstein wrote, "I feel more sen- 
sual than before. Today I masturbated 
again." Monk says, "What appears to 
emerge from his diary is that his desire 
to masturbate and his ability to work 
were complementary signs that he was, 
in a full sense, alive. One might almost 
say that for him. sensuality and phi- 
losophical-thought were inextricably 
linked— the physical and mental manifes- 

lations oi passionate arousal." I wrote 
"Be'~an" in the margin. 
Berman: Monk's biography ties the psy- 
chosexual, emotional Wittgenstein lo 
The Tractatus and the Philosophical In- 
vestigations. Read it and you begin to 
understand that philosophy has an emo- 
tional, sensual base. Why does Des- 
cartes denigrate sensory experience 
and call it unreliable? I think Descartes 
rejected sense experience and sensu- 
ality for pure rationalism after the 
death of his daughter, when life be- 
came too emotionally painful for him. 
On that schema, of mind split off from 
body, we will always have to deal with 
a pure, Platonic world Of forms that logi- 
cally fit together, a perfectly vertical vi- 
sion of reality, a ladder to the truth. 

But that's not the end of the story. 
When Wittgenstein finished The Trac- 
tatus, he realized he had compiled a the- 
oretical analysis of theory. In that 
sense, it was the apex of twentieth- 
century philosophy. What does he do 
afterward? He goes completely horizon- 
tal, becoming a gardener and a school- 
teacher in rural villages in Austria. He 
works with h^s hards, complies a gram- 
mar of Lower Austrian dialect, for God's 
sake! He lets himself experience his sex- 
uality. There are two Wittgensteins: a 
purely vertical one, and a purely hori- 
zontal one. The last time I was in Vien- 
na; I toured the house Wittgenstein de- 
signed for his sister, Margarete Stonbor- 
ough. It is now, get this, the Bulgarian 
embassy! The house is a perfect phys- 
ical embodiment of The Tractatus — 
spare, minimal, masculine, yang, and 
lean, But he designed it ten years after 
he wrote The Tractatus, when he was 
already "going horizontal," already a dif- 
ferent person. Yet he was caught in a 
time lag. We can't demand miraculous 
transformations from people. They 
have to work through their dilemmas in 
their own time. 

Omni: You have said the West today is 
the driest tinder possible ior Fascism, 
Berman: People are spiritually desper- 
ate. I guess somatic damage and emo- 
tional desperation have multiplied over 
the millennia since the agricultural rev- 
olution, Today people are born in me- 
chanical circumstances in hospitals, 
with glaring lights, and are immediate- 
ly iaken away from the mother. What do 
we mean by "God"? We mean bond- 
ing. Damn it, that's the crux of it! But 
we defy our need for bonding and go 
in search of substitutes. Somebody 
packages "God" in a formula, and it's 
guaranteed to attract thousands of 
people. The God syndrome. Perhaps 
Dostoyevsky understood this best of 
all. In The Brothers Karamazov. the 
Grand Inquisitor tells Christ, "The ever- 









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last ng wish of the human race is to 
find someone to worship." This is finally 
what fundamentalism — religious or oth- 
erwise — is about. 

Omni: Isn't it ironic that in the Informa- 
tion Age we seem to know less, and 
less about the world? 
Berman: The Gulf War was portrayed 
by the news as the war of graphics. 
We're fed lots of information, but we 
learn nothing. It's all the same kind of 
Information — computer mode, binary 
mode, the McDonaldization of the 
mind. We think in thirty-second sound 
bites, and .the information industry ca- 
ters to that mentality. Information is in- 
stantly packaged so we don't have to 
think, though we think we're thinking. 

But there are. significant counterrnove- 
ments. Some people are dissatisfied 
with the larger culture, and they're mov- 
ing away from a packaged and prefab- 
ricated world in which everything is hand- 
ed to them in the form of a Harlequin 
Romance. Like many authors, I get the 
most remarkable letters from people all 
over this country. Dramatic stuff. Not ev- 
erybody has been so overwhelmed by 
the media that they want to stuff their 
pain, questions, or doubts, believe in 
the Gulf War, and think everything's 
just fine. There are people who want to 
get to the bottom of their pain. 

On a hidden, somatic level such 
change might be afoot, and that's a 
hopeful possibility. Here's another 
quote from Roethke: "In a dark time, the 
eye begins to see." Not Utopia, per- 
haps, but just possibly, a nonformulis- 
tic experience of life. And that's not 
half bad, you know? DO 


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me: The corpse had black hair, which 
was greased back; he had probably 
worn it in a DA with an elephant's trunk 
in the front, but whoever did him up prob- 
ably thought a flattop was the height oi 
coolness. It looked like he had had pim- 
ples, too, but his face was coated with 
makeup; and it looked too white, like 
someone had gone crazy with the pow- 
der or something. The expression on his 
face was kind of snarly: I guess they 
couldn't wipe it off. 1 had a strong feel- 
ing that I would have liked this guy. 

But looking down at this corpse 
made me feel sort of weird. Not that I 
was scared anymore, but this kid 
didn't really seem to be dead. It was 
like this was some sort of a play, and 
everybody was acting, just as we 

This guy just couldn't be dead. 

He looked like he was going to sit up 
any second. 

I blinked then because it was almost 
as if he was glowing like one of those 
94 OMNI 

religious paintings I've seen in church- 
es, it was as if 1 could see the stuff of 
his soul, or something like that. Christ, 
I almost fell backward. 

I knew that was all bullshit, but I saw 
it just the same. 

Crocker didn't seem to see it; at 
least he didn't say anything. So it must 
have just been me. 

And then I remembered something 
about my father that scared me. It just 
sort of came out of nowhere! 

I remembered the nurse taking my 
arm and trying to pull me out of the hos- 
pital room. Mom was crying and scream- 
ing, and she fell right on top of Dad on 
the bed. But I got one last look at Dad; 
and he looked like he was made up of 
light, sort of like a halo was around him 
and all over him. 

How could I have forgotten some- 
thing like that? 

But I did. I must have just pushed it 
right out of my mind. 

"How d'you think he died?" I asked 
Crocker. Hearing my own voice made 
me feel normal again. And that was 
important right now. 

"Who knows? Probably some sort of 

"Nah, he looks too good." 

"That don't mean nothin'," Crocker 

said. "They can make anybody look 
good as new.. .almost. He could have 
even had cancer," 

Crocker looked up in the air. 

I called his name, but he ignored me. 
It was as if he was listening to some- 
thing. He had his head cocked like the 
RCA dog. 

"Crocker, come on," I said after a 
while. I was starting to get worried. 
"Hey, you...Crock-a-shit." 

"Shut up!" Crocker snapped. "Can't 
you hear him?" 

"Hear what?" 

"Just listen." 

I listened, I really did, but I couldn't 
hear a damn thing. Crocker was prob- 
ably off his nut, plain and simple. But 
I wasn't much better, not after I had 
just seen the corpse glowing like the 
hands on a watch. 

Who knows, maybe the dead guy 
could talk. And maybe Crocker could 
hear him. 

But I just wanted to get out of there. 

I was already feeling like the walls 
and everything were going to close in 
on me. 

"He's leaving," Crocker said. "He's 
saying good-bye to everybody. Cool!" 

"Okay, then let's go," I said, but I 
couldn't help looking at the spot where 
Crocker seemed to be staring, and I got 
the strangest feeling. Then I saw it: a 
pool of light like a cloud thai seemed 
to be connected to the body that was 
now glowing softly again. 

And the light was bleeding out of the 
corpse like it was the guy's spirit or some- 

A few seconds later the light just 
blinked out, as if someone had thrown 
a switch; and the body looked different, 
too, as if something vital had just 
drained out of it. Now it was nothing 
more than a shell; it looked like it was 
made of plastic. It was dull, lifeless. 

We left then. Crocker and I just left 
at the same time, as if we both knew 

And I heard thunder and remem- 
bered my father talking in the language 
only he could understand; and I felt as 
if I was drowning in something as 
deep and as big as the ocean. 

When we got out of the funeral home, 
and past all the men standing around 
and smoking cigarettes, Crocker said, 
"You heard him, didn't you? I could 

"I didn't hear nothin'," I said, pro- 
tecting my ass. 

"Bullshit," Crocker said. 

"Bullshit on you," I said. 

"Well, you were acting. ..different," 
Crocker said. 

I admitted that maybe I saw some- 

thing that was a little weird, but it was 
probably just in my head. That bent 
Crocker ail out of shape; he seemed 
happier than a kid with a box of Ju Ju 
Bees, and I got worried that he'd shoot 
off his mouth, to everyone he saw. 

I warned him about that. 

"Give me a break," he said. "It's 
enough that the guys in the club think 
of me as some sort of asshole as it is. 
You're the only one I feel I can talk to— 
and I don't even really know you." 

"Okay," I said, worried that maybe 
there was something wrong with me. 
Why else would Crocker feel that way? 
It also worried me that first I saw the 
. dead guy glowing like my aunt's Sylva- 
nia Halolight TV, and then I saw his 
soul (or whatever it was) pass right out 
of him, leaving nothing but a body that 
was more like a statue or something 
made of plaster of Paris. But I put 
those thoughts away and asked, 
"What did the guy say?" 

"His name is Matt... remember? He 
said he was scared out of his gourd un- 
til he found his grandmother." 


"His grandmother's dead. She'll 
show him around." 

"Around where?" 

"How the hell should I know?" Crock- 
er said. "Heaven, probably." 

"You gotta be kidding." I couldn't 
help but laugh. "You're making that 
stuff up." But somehow I really wanted 
to believe it. 

"I thought you said you saw some- 
thing," Crocker said, hanging his 
head. "And I believed you.... I wanted 
to know what you saw — " 

"1 said I thought I saw something.". I 
punched him hard on the arm to make 
him feel better. "And it wasn't nothing 
but a glowing like a TV tube when you 
turn it off." 

"I never saw that." 

"Now tell me, what else did Matt 
say?" I asked. 

"He hates Bill Haley, but we got Jack- 
ie Wilson right." 

"Uh-huh," I said. 

"Well, that's what I thought I heard," 
Crocker said. 

"Why'd you say, 'Cool'?" I asked. 


"When you were looking up in the air, 
you said, 'Cool.' Don't you remember?" 



And Crocker started laughing. It was 
like he couldn't stop. He kept leaning 
forward and stumbling and then laugh- 
ing even louder. I couldn't help but 
smile, and I kept knuckling his arm un- 
til he told me. 

"He said he was going to visit the Big 


"That's what he said, And Ritchie 

"You're so full of crap," I said. But 
now I couldn't stop laughing either. 

"Then maybe dying's not so bad," I 
said, and we fell down right there on the 
sidewalk on Ackley Avenue in. front of 
a brown shingled house that belonged 
to Mrs. Campbell, my third-grade teach- 
er. I don't know what it was, but I just 
couldn't stop laughing and crying. 

Neither could Crocker. 

And who knows, maybe I really did 
see something flickering in the air 
above Matt's dead body while he was 
floating around in Heaven somewhere 
meeting his grandmother. 

And maybe he did get to see the Big 

Just like the Big Bopper probably got 
to see Valens and Holly.. .and probably 
Mozart and Beethoven, too. 

And maybe the Big Bopper also got 
to meet my dad. 

Why not? Dad would be there, stand- 
ing right on line; he always liked to 
play the piano, all that bebop and boo- 
gie-woogie stuff. So maybe he became 
a musician, just like all the others. 

Now, fhafwould be something.... DO 


96 OMNI 


:vi 4v 1 if 



inside information 
id nowhere else. Packed 
full of hints, tips, 




h the beginner 
and experienced 

missions. 24-8 pages 





by Richard Sheffield 




by Richard Sheffield 
Foreword by Sid Meier 


Written with the help of the creator and f 
:-seliine book cove 





the seamless acrylic 
Sees hell Dinghy. 
Flaal in a "giant div- 
er's mask" while 
viewing the underwa- 
ter world. Cast: 
$1,595. Meter and 
ether accessories 
are optional. 
Contact: Acrylicraft 
Design, Inc; 
(305) 266-5030. 


The portable 
personal water fil- 
ter in a straw. 
Cleansip effectively 
removes contam- 
inants from water 
drink after drink 
for a period of up to 
six months. Cost: 
$9.95. Contact: 
Global Star Products, 
Oklahoma City, OK; 
(405) 691-0799. 

Ricoh's ultra com pact 
Mirai Zoam 3 
camera weighs less 
than 18 ounces 
minus batteries. The 
exclusive passive 
Verified Auto System 
with assist light 
ensures the proper 
focus even in dim 
lighting. Cast; $420. 
Contact: Ricoh, 
Fairfield, NJ; (201) 


Sharp's CD-S77 
offers unique porta- 
bility for CD listeners. 
Features Include 
dual cassette decks, 
auto edit, and 
enhanced bass and 
linear response. 
Cost: $449.95. 
Contact: Sharp, 
Mahwah, NJ;(800) 


Winner of the most 
interesting newprod- 
uct award at the 
1991 Japan Gift 
Show, the popOpen 

open in a second. 
Comes wit h carrying 
bag. Cost: $29.95. 
Contact: The pop- 
Open Company, Pa- 
cific Palisades, CA; 
(313) 874-0346. 


A bicycle meant 
far two can be fun 
with the Rhode 
Gear child seal. The 
seat features an 
adjustable back and 
harness and comes 
with the VR 1000 
Rear Rack. Cost: 
$89.95. Contact: 
Rhode Gear, Provi- 
dence, Rl; (401) 

connpuTER garaes 


Playing on-line is real interactive entertainment. 

You never know what might happen 

I went to a wedding the other 
day, in a place called Kelfour's 
Landing. It was not your aver- 
age wedding: The bride and 
groom were elves and the 
guest list looked like something 
out of a J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy. 
And of course, you'll never find 
Kelfour's Landing on any map 
of this world. 

The wedding occurred in the 
fantasy world of Simutronics' 
Gemstone 111, a hybrid comput- 
er game known as an interac- 
tive on-line multiplayer game, or 
MPG, where you encounter char- 
acters controlled by other peo- 
ple, not the computer. MPGs rep- 
resent another side of virtual re- 
ality, one without the hardware. 
With bulky headsets producing 
three-dimensional wireframe 
graphics, virtual reality can't pro- 
duce an illusion of reality be- 
cause it doesn't require an emo- 
tional investment. 

MPGs, however, tap emo- 
tions and achieve a heightened 
sense of reality by focusing on 
imagination, without biomedical 

While simple MPGs have 
been around for some time on 

small, local bulletin boards, major commercial on-line ser- 
vices like GEnie and CompuServe are stimulating imagina- 
tions with increasing sophistication and success. Games 
range from the card and board game genre of GEnie's 
FfSCARDS to game shows like CompuServe's You 
Guessed It, in addition to a variety of MPGs. 

Sierra. On-Line has now joined the on-line game service 
with The Sierra Network (TSN), initiated this summer in the 
California market. Planning to go nationwide by the end of 
the year, on its way toward creating a "nationwide computer 
neighborhood," TSN will offer such board games as 
chess, checkers, and backgammon, as well as bridge and 
other card games. Optional services include SierraLand, 
aimed at children, and LarryLand, offering adult fare on a 
Las Vegas-style strip. 

The most popular MPGs are the ones that allow the great- 

est number of players to play 
with the greatest degree of inter- 
action. Kesmai Corporation's Air 
Warrior, for example, pits as 
many as 50 players against 
each other in a graphics-based 
environment. The multiplayer aer- 
ial combat simulation offers an 
array of more than 20 vintage 
combat aircraft from World War 
I, World War II, and the Korean 
War. Players can fly individual- 
ly, in squadrons, or even as 
members of a bomber crew. 
And the human opponents cre- 
ate game dynamics impossible 
lo duplicate in conventional com- 
puter simulations. 

Unlike.-the graphics-based 
Air Warrior, GEnie's Gemstone 
III relies entirely on a text- 
based interface to create a role- 
playing environment where as 
many as 55 people at a time 
can act out their fantasies 
through alter egos of their own 
creation. And the sophisticated 
host program permits on-line 
modifications and upgrades in 
real time. Interestingly, many of 
the new ideas introduced— like 
the wedding in Keifour's Land- 
ing — are the result of player 
input and often don't even advance the game. Gemstone play- 
ers give a great deal of attention to the development of 
their game personae, generated from the ground up, from 
adolescence through apprenticeship, including physical char- 
acteristics. The overall effect is like stepping into the pag- 
es of a well-written book and becoming an active participant 
in both the writing and the telling of the story. 

But will the marriage of technology and imagination en- 
hanceor inhibit our abilities to interact with each other and 
the world around us? Will we evolve into a higher order of 
social animals or become increasingly isolated, wired into 
a dreamworld where it's ail touch and no contact? Perhaps 
the answer lies in the human interaction that delivers an emo- 
tional payoff. And unlike passively watching television, 
MPGs require not only active participation but also the full 
use of your creative faculties.— JAY KEEDO 



These mixed-up drinks go straight to your head 

By Scot Morris 

There have been knock- 
knock jokes, good news/ 
bad news jokes, and 
light bulb jokes. Last Feb- 
ruary we iniroduced. readers 
to the mixed-up drink 
joke, concoctions meant to 
be heard or read, rather 
than actually drunk. We 
provided such examples as 
a Phillips' Screwdriver 
(vodka, orange juice, and 
mvV c- -agneiMs); a Tequila 
Mockingbird (Jose Cuervo 
and birdseed); and a Bloody 
Awful (vodka. and kerchup). 
For Competition #52, we 
asked readers to create 
their own mixed-up G'rir^.s. 
offering $100' to the grand 

102 OMNI 

prize-winner and $25 to 
each of the nine runners-up. 
Each winner also receives a 
copy of The Emperor Who 
Ate the Bible. 

Shirley MacLaine (sugar,-, 
carbonated water, ginger 
extract, syrup, and'pome- 
granate; or what ginger ale 
and grenadine were in a 
previous life) — Rob Rufl, 
Omaha, NE 
• Sinead O'Connor (Irish 
whiskey and Nair) — Chris 
Bayer, Urbana, ll_ 
■Shortwave (Ripplein a 

shot glass) — David McAne- 
ney, Newton Square, PA 

• Coieman Cooler (white 
wine, soda, fried chicken 
crumbs, and sand) — Peter 
Schachter, Palm Springs 

■ Honeydew the Dishes 
(Midori and Dawn) — Cheryl 
Williford, Arlington, VA 

• Alexander the Grrreat (gin, 
creme de cacao, and sweet 
cream over Kellogg's Corn 
Flakes)— Beverly Botel- 

ho, Blairstown, NJ 

• Mary Pop'pins (vodka, 
tomato juice, and a spoonful 
of sugar, decorated with a 
paper umbrella) — Melissa 
DeVine, Nacogdoches, TX 

• American in Paris (Ken- 
tucky bourbon and cham- 
pagne) — Lorna Mueller, 
Oiympia, WA 

• Oil of Ole (Mazola and 
sangria)— Carl Forester, 
De Funiak Springs, FL 

• Three Men and a Baby 
(Jim Beam, Johnnie Walker, 
Jack Daniel's, and Enfa- 
mil) — Todd Morrow, Weir- 
ton, WV 


• Quack Doctor (cold duck 
and Dr. Pepper)— Richard 

Dubay, Meriden, CT 

• Absolut Zero (Absolut 
vodka over frozen nitrogen) — 
Tom Jones, Indianapolis 

• Scotch' Tape Worm (Dew- 
ar's and mescal) — Kerry 
Worden, Verplank, NY 

• Marie Antoinette (bourbon, 
cake mix. and flat beer) — 
Rob Ruff, Omaha 

• Shipwreck (Cutty Sark on 
the rocks); Port in a Storm 
(red wine and rainwater); 
Sour Kraut (schnapps and 
lemon juice) — David McAne- 
ney. Newton Square, PA 

• lvlar-=nizer (gin, vermouth, 
and'carbon tetrachloride) 

— Steve Newman, San Jose 

• Fuzzy Naval Base (peach 
schnapps, orange juice, 
and ammonia) — Ed Roth, 
Vineland, NJ 

• Sake-to-me (rice wine, 
punch, and nitrous ox- 
ide) — Helen Papas, Mil- 
bourne, PA 

• Blood Clot (vodka, tomato 
juice, and Jell-Q) — - Andrew 
Paris, Federal Way, WA 

• Gorbachev (vodka with a 
splash of port wine) — Wyll 
Parke, Evansville, IN 

• George Bush (George 
Dick-el bourbon and Busch 
beer)— Sally Urban, Sun- 
rise, FL 

• Three Mile Island iced tea 
(vodka, gin, rum, tequila, 
and plutonium) — Colin Guti- 
errez, St. Joseph, MO 

• Blind Faith (wood alcohol 
and sacramental wine) — 
Randy Mott, Austin, TX 

• Mexican Hairless (tequila 
and Minoxidil) — David Ber- 
to.San Francisco 

• Sundae Driver (vodka, 
orange juice, and ice 
cream); Skid Roe (muscatel 
and caviar) — Joseph Li- 
siewski, Cleveland 
•Peter, Paul, and Mary 
(potassium nitrate, Paul 
Masson wine, and tomato 
juice)— Paul J. Baldi, 
Rsynham, MA 

■ Blue Moon (corn whiskey 
and Aqua Velva) — Tim 
Beasley, Virginia Beach, VA 

• Black Sabbath (Kahlua 
and Mogen David wine) 
—Joel Saeks, Brooklyn 
•A Rum With a View 
(Bacardi and Visine)— 
Mitchell Pipe, Plainfield, NH 

• Rum-Pole of the Bailey 
(Bacardi rum, Popov vodka, 
and Bailey's Irish Cream) 
—Karl P. Fisher, Edmonton, 
Alberta, Canada DO 



Auto-visualization will take you for a ride 

By D. Patrick Miller 

D. Patrick Miller 

has recently 

been visualizing 

a chauffeured 

ride to the bank. 

Facilitator's Note: In just a 
few giddy years, the prac- 
tice of creative visualiza- 
tion has migrated from the airy of- 
fices of New Age therapists into 
the power lounges of corporate 
America. There's hardly anything 
the imaginative power of the 
mind cannot accomplish, and no 
problem insoluble by purposeful 

The everyday applicability and 
power of visualization can even 
help you transcend one of life's 
most irksome occurrences: the 
breakdown of your car. Although 
originally channeled for use with 
the classic Volkswagen (VW) 
bug, you can adapt the basic prin- 
ciples of this technique to any-au- 
tomobile, however. Remember, 
It's always mind over machine, 
and not the other way around. 

You are high in the hills above 
California's Half Moon Bay, and 
it is nearly dark. A foggy rain 
blows in rushing billows. 
Your ancient yellow bug 
sits by the side of the 
road. Ten minutes ago it 
rolled to a stop after 
mumbling "kaput" with 
the chilling timbre of final- 
ity. Threats, plaintive whee- 
dling, and offers of long- 
denied attention are failing 
to spark the ignition. Mus- 
all of your me- 
chanical genius, 
you have hunted 
for obvious 
blown hoses, 
loose connec- 
tions, running 
sores, hissing 
snakes. . . 
anything. No 
dice. The traf- 
fic so plentiful 
a while ago 
has dissolved 
nto the swirl- 
ing mists. 

Now is not the time to lose your 
cool. It's time to tap the extraor- 
dinary power of creative visual- 
ization: Get back into the car. Sit 
comfortably in the driver's seat, 
grasping the wheel in the tradition- 
al "ten and two" position, and 
close your eyes. Breathe in deep- 
ly through the nose, filling first the 
abdomen— the "golden stove of 
the Oriental ancients" — then the 
upper chest, making a subtle hoo 
sound through the nasal passag- 
es. Exhale smoothly with your 
mouth open, making a long 
haah sound. 

The steering wheel is growing 
warm in your hands. Keeping 
your eyes closed, you can "see" 
the wheel beginning to color 
from pink to the deep red of an 
electric range. Just before it 
grows too hot to handle, it begins 
a slow clockwise rotation, picking 
up speed until it has become a 
blinding, fiery wheel of energy. 
Suddenly a crimson spark 
shoots down the length of your 
steering column, striking deep in- 
to the psychic nexus of your VW. 

The inner bug is awakened, 
along with the colorful spirit crea- 
tures that populate the astral lev- 
el of Volkswagen consciousness: 
blue-faced Harpies; clumsy, 
black-shoed griffins; and tiny 
winged, tuxedoed kittens. They 
are circulating through the vents 
and windows of your car, buzz- 
ing softly, awaiting the expression 
of your slightest whim. You real- 
ize-that they will take you out of- 
your predicament and carry you 
anywhere you want to go. What 
is your command? 

Fondly remembering your last 
vacation, you say, "Well, I'd rath- 
er be sitting in the lounge of the 
historic Ahwahnee Hotel in Yo- 
semite Park!" You shiver. "Could 
use a cup of coffee, too." 

To your astonishment, the 
whole vehicle is lifted on the 
wings of the mystical creatures — 

the upward thrust is about, say, 
one and a half g's — and borne 
quickly above the hills and then 
the clouds, 

Before you know it the bug is 
banking and diving into a dizzy- 
ing descent, and suddenly a 
sheer rock wall appears to your 
left, a little too close for comfort, 
rushing upward cinematically as 
you drop by. No sooner do you 
feel a little anxiety over an impend- 
ing crash than the car noses into 
an invisible pillow — ploofl — and 
you can see lights and feel 
warmth from below. Still firmly 
grasping the wheel, you are drop- 
ping ever so gently, right down to 
the floor of the great lounge of the 
Ahwahnee. The car settles onto 
its wheels so close to the silver 
coffee urn that you can grab a 
cup without opening the door, 
Not a bad visualization! 

As you reach for the cream 
and a spoon, your pleasant aura 
of success is rent by the 
screams of two well-dressed, faint- 
ing matrons. A young, Earth Moth- 
er-type couple sits in a nearby 
love seat, stunned by the inter- 
ruption of their mushroom-in- 
duced reverie. A bellboy is strick- 
en at the sight of mud and oily wa- 
ter dropping off your bug and on- 
to the Ahwahnee's gleaming 
wood floor. He screams. The 
griffins are terrorizing young chil- 
dren, the flying tuxedoed kitties 
are obviously not hotel trained, 
and the harpies have flown away 
to the dining hall, carping loudly 
and creating general mayhem. 

You twist in your seat just in 
time to see two big, burly park 
rangers hustling toward you with 
big sticks. The coffee spills in 
your lap as you attack the starter 
savagely. Nada. The damn car 
still. won't start, and you're in an 
unbelievable fix.... 

Okay, you take it from there. 
And don't forget the deep, rhyth- 
mic breathing'OQ